The Hoya faithful have heard it before: After another stellar regular season, another heartbreaking postseason exit and another offseason of key departures, Georgetown has to restock the shelves and mesh as a team once more.

As in years past, it will start yet again with Head Coach John Thompson III. Entering his 10th year at the helm, Thompson’s record speaks for itself: 209 wins — including 99 in conference — seven NCAA tournament berths and a Final Four appearance. Year after year, with roster upheaval threatening his squad, Thompson keeps the Georgetown ship straight. His patented “Georgetown offense” may not pop off the screen, but his coaching effectiveness is undeniable.

So, too, is his propensity for taking on all challengers in non-conference play, regardless of locale.

“Our out-of-conference schedule is the hardest we’ve had since I’ve been coaching here,” Thompson said.

At least three ranked teams are on the docket for the Blue and Gray outside conference play. Georgetown opens against No. 18 Oregon in South Korea on Nov. 8, then take on freshman phenomAndrew Wiggins and No. 6 Kansas. Midway through conference play, Georgetown will travel to Madison Square Garden for a February showdown with preseason No. 2 Michigan State.

Throw in the possibility of facing No. 9 Michigan and No. 15 VCU in Puerto Rico, and it’s a whirlwind non-conference schedule that affords the Hoyas a short, pressure-filled window to become a cohesive unit.

Conference play, for the first time in recent memory, may actually prove to be the smallest of reprieves for the Blue and Gray, though it will still be highly competitive.

“Over time … those same feelings and emotions toward the opposition, toward the new teams, is going to be created, because it’s a terrific league,” Thompson said.

The home-and-home format of the new Big East means two dates against conference lightweights DePaul and Butler. That also means a double-dip against consensus conference favorite Marquette as well as Creighton, home of likely conference player of the year Doug McDermott. While the new Big East won’t have the same clout as the 16-team behemoth of old, the Hoyas will once more have to navigate a conference chock full of nationally regarded programs.

With tons of experience and talent returning from last year’s regular-season Big East championship squad, however, the Hoyas are up for the challenge.

The senior leaders this year are battle-tested Markel Starks and Nate Lubick, the top returning scorer and rebounder on the team, respectively. Starting point guard Starks — a preseason Big East first-teamer — inherits the big man on campus role this year and is ready to run with it. His numbers in all facets of the game have steadily improved every year he has been on the Hilltop.

“As a freshman, [Markel] played very few minutes … all of the sudden, sophomore year, he’s starting, has an up-and-down year, has a very good junior year, and I think he’s poised to take that next step as a senior,” Thompson said.

Longtime starting power forward Lubick is pigeonholed as the prototypical senior glue guy, but he’ll be counted on this year to anchor the Hoyas’ frontcourt on both ends of the court.

“We are going to depend on Nate for a lot more scoring punch on the blocks,” Thompson said. “This year we are going to go to him, and he’s going to have to produce.”

Who will join Lubick up front is less clear. Junior Mikael Hopkins, last year’s starting center, returns, as does senior enforcer Moses Ayegba. Looming large as well is newly eligible UCLA transfer Josh Smith, the former McDonald’s All-American center who’s looking to revitalize his career in Washington, D.C.

Progression will be the name of the game for these three in 2013-14. Can Ayegba develop a reliable offensive game to match his defensive post presence? Can Hopkins channel his inner Henry Sims and assume a more involved role?  Can Smith improve his stamina and bring his havoc-wreaking low-post game for significant minutes per game? All three players are mysterious commodities entering the campaign, and finding the appropriate rotation for the entire group will be paramount to the Hoyas’success this year.

Starting alongside Starks will be electric scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and bulldog defender JabrilTrawick.

“I think that, as a group, our backcourt is as good as any around,” Thompson said.

Sophomore Smith-Rivera came into his own last year when playing time opened up during the second half of the year, showing off a sweet stroke on his way to averaging 11 points per game in conference play. The most dynamic offensive weapon the Hoyas have, look for Smith-Rivera to establish himself as one of the Big East’s most feared players in his second year. Trawick, meanwhile, is already in that company. If the junior, the best on-ball defender on the team, can get his three-pointers to drop more often, he’ll be the best two-way player to don the Kente this year.

The biggest question, though, comes in replacing reigning Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter. Filling the void left by the lottery pick was a tall task even before Greg Whittington injured his ACL this offseason and looks nearly certain to be out for the year. While Trawick will likely see his fair share of time at small forward, a sizeable portion of the minutes on the wing should fall to a group of three talented yet untested players: sharpshooting sophomore guard Stephen Domingo, high-flying senior forward Aaron Bowen, and freshman guard Reggie Cameron.

“We have a team where each and every person needs to be ready when your number is called,” Thompson said regarding the opening. “Your number may be called today, and then not be called for two days, and then you may be called three days in a row.”

By the sound of it, the Hoyas will look to rotate on the wing early and often until a dependable option emerges.

Asking for a repeat of last season’s regular-season success for this year’s Hoyas is a little too ambitious for a team that just lost its do-everything superstar and moves into a new conference full of unknowns.

But if we know anything about the Hoyas under JTIII, it’s that they don’t rebuild. They reload. Thompson put it best at the team’s first media availability day in late October.

“I’m more excited about the future than I am worried about the past.”

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