The Georgetown men's college basketball season opens this Saturday, Nov. 14 against Radford. The first regular season game against Maryland since 1993 soon follows along with meetings against Wisconsin and Duke or VCU. December brings "Squeeze the Orange" banners at Verizon Center when the Hoyas reunite with longtime rival Syracuse. The bulk of the matchups with current Big East foes including Villanova take place over January and February.
Based on those opponents, factoring in a deep roster with interchangeable athletes galore plus impressive conference and national projections, the Hoyas are in line for a winning and exciting season.
Whether the fans can truly enjoy is another matter. Lurking around the corner of every regular season victory or buzzer-beater finish, wafting in the air over every "is this our year" discussion on the Hilltop lies the Ides of March Madness.
Since reaching the 2007 Final Four, the Hoyas haven't advanced past the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Fair or not, the talk is reality. Announcers will mention in most broadcasts. Opposing fans on the road will remind with glee, not that the Blue and Gray faithful need those upsetting memories jogged.
Neither does the main man on the Georgetown bench. The one who followed his father as a Final Four coach. The one who keeps churning out 20-win regular seasons. The one who led his team to the NCAA's in six of the past eight seasons. The one who directed his higher seeded squad into tournament games as heavy favorites against Davidson, Ohio, VCU and Florida Gulf Coast -- and lost.
"History is history and we're going to do what we can as it relates to our season," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said during a recent interview with CSNmidatlantic.com. "[Have] similar results, but in many ways, different results."
Similar means another season with at least 21 wins, which the Hoyas have achieved in eight of the last 10 years under Thompson. Different, well, that doesn't need explaining.
Last season's tournament loss to fourth-seeded Utah in the round of 32 wasn't one of those OMG upset scenarios. Lumped together with other first weekend exits, it's still enough to drive some diehards to madness or at least fear what the next March might bring from November to February.
Thompson's status as Georgetown's head coach is among the most stable in college basketball. The program wins games while avoiding NCAA scandal. There is a new, 144,000 square foot athletics center under construction next to venerable McDonough Arena, the program's longtime practice facility. The new building will be named for the father, John R. Thompson Jr.
That doesn't mean the man most on the outside refer to as JT3 doesn't feel pressure. It's just not coming from the outside, from reporters, fans or hecklers.
"There is tremendous pressure that always comes with the job," Thompson said. "There is no one on this earth that wants us to succeed more than me. That pressure comes from within."
The interview takes place in his office above the McDonough court where hanging banners and various NBA uniforms highlight the program's success and player achievement. The coach sits in front of a picture of former Georgetown great Patrick Ewing, the centerpiece of his father's 1984 national championship team. Reminders of Georgetown's past glory and potential are everywhere.
As for the constant discussion about NCAA Tournament woes, Thompson said, "I would not say there is extra [pressure], but there are always huge expectations that come along with sitting in this chair. That has always been the case."
For this specific marching in March topic, the case will remain open until the Hoyas close it shut with a trip to the round of 16 and ideally a bit more. That may be the best reason why fans should put on blinders and live in the moment. Enjoy the final season with senior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and the first with three promising freshmen. Embrace the games with the Maryland's and Wisconsin's, the Syracuse's and Villanova's, and, sure, the Radford's for what they are without big picture focus. Talk of previous NCAA Tournament bummers will be there come March regardless. Until then, enjoy the ride.
That's just a thought. No pressure.