Heading into last season, Georgetown coach John Thompson III remained unsure whether the tricky non-conference schedule he put together was proper for his senior-less roster. Perhaps he's having similar thoughts now that the latest high profile opponent has been added to the Hoyas upcoming slate.
Part of a Super Bowl weekend doubleheader, Georgetown will face Michigan State on Saturday, February 1 at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas and Spartans play in the second game followed by Big East foes Marquette and St. John's, which tips at 12:30 p.m.
"We’re very excited to have the opportunity to play Michigan State at Madison Square Garden,” Thompson said in statement. “ Michigan State is tremendous program and I have a great deal of respect for Coach Izzo and what they’ve accomplished there."
Despite the loss of Porter to the NBA and Whittington to injury, the Hoyas return four starters, including seniors Markel Starks and Nate Lubick. The Spartans, who reached the Sweet 16 last season, also return four starters and six of their top seven scorers.
The intrigue goes beyond a clash between veteran teams or the first meeting between the programs since Michigan State's 80-68 win in the second round of the 1986 NCAA Tournament. In terms of this specific game, it comes smack in the middle of conference play. It's the first time Georgetown jumps out of conference after starting since defeating Duke on January 30, 2010, nine games into Big East play.
In terms of the overall schedule, the Hoyas start the season against Oregon on November 8 at a U.S. Army base in South Korea. Less than two weeks later, Georgetown heads away from the U.S. mainland again to play in the Puerto Rico Tip-off from November 21-24. The Hoyas start with Northeastern and could face Kansas State in their next game. Also in the field, 2013 NCAA Tournament finalist Michigan and VCU.
One month later, Georgetown starts its four-year series with Kansas, playing the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse on December 21.
Only those living in the past believe the Hoyas are still scheduling nothing but cupcakes before diving into Big East waters. Often to the dismay of his father, John Thompson III has routinely put his teams in harm's way of ranked or threatening regular season opponents, including last year. Georgetown downed UCLA, Tennessee and Texas, lost to No. 1 Indiana and its game against Florida on a U.S. naval ship cancelled.
Besides prepping his players for conference play and having those road/neutral site games serve essentially as recruiting trips, there is another reason why the Hoyas need this notable opponents this season: the Big East isn't what it used to be. While Marquette, Creighton and Villanova appear formidable entering the season while St. John's and Xavier could surprise, the conference no longer offers nightly RPI-helping opponents now that Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Louisville are playing elsewhere.
The Hoyas have had no issues with RPI math in recent years. With their robust non-conference schedule, they won't in 2013-14 either.