For casual college basketball fans, turning attention toward the kids on the hardwood often doesn't begin until the calendar flips an entire year. Even then there might be some additional lag time, say until March Madness talk truly heats up. Despite the buzzer-beaters and burgeoning talent and impact matchups, some viewers use the entire shot clock, as it were.
The local programs, specifically Maryland, Georgetown and George Washington, are providing reasons why you should pick up the pace.
Seeing as Maryland dominates the DMV coverage due to the massive fan base -- and numerous alumni within the local media corps -- you're likely aware the Terps (5-0) rank No. 2 in all the land. Seeing as you were probably busy the last few days, it's possible you missed their two-game swing through Cancun. If so, just know they didn't simply look good in the championship game against Rhode Island, but imposing.
Top 20 matchups with North Carolina and Connecticut headline the next two weeks. Thanks to All-American candidate Melo Trimble plus the frontcourt trio of Jake Layman, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone, coach Mark Turgeon's team is considered a sincere national title contender. If Maryland can survive dealing with such expectations for the first time in years, the Terps might just get there.
Seeing as its loss to Radford made national headlines, the meeting with Maryland flooded the area with nostalgia and its last game was against Duke, you might realize Georgetown started the season 1-3. You might have also heard some suggest the Hoyas are the best team in years to open a season losing three of four. That's no joke. With interchangeable, athletic pieces all over the place, this group has more upside than the team that earned a bloated fifth seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Sophomore forward Isaac Copeland appears on his way to a breakout season. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera hasn't produced like an All-American quite yet, but the senior scoring guard remains one of the nation's top perimeter threats. Swingman L.J. Peak is morphing into a two-way threat and freshman center Jessie Govan offers inside and outside help. If they get Paul White (hip) and Tre Campbell (illness) back soon, coach John Thompson III can really have fun with lineup combinations.
The Radford loss will hamper the Hoyas' RPI all season, but résumé boosting help remains with non-conference games against Syracuse (Dec. 5 at Verizon Center) and Connecticut plus the Big East slate. Last week's win over Wisconsin helped. Georgetown opens a seven-game homestand Saturday (12:00 p.m.) against Bryant.
Maryland and Georgetown are the biggest names in town, but George Washington owns the best win among the locals on the young season. It's not just the Mike Lonergan coached the Colonials to a 73-68 over No. 6 Virginia at Smith Center on Nov. 16. It's that the win really wasn't a shocker. GW, coming off consecutive 20-win seasons, boasts impressive non-conference wins against Maryland, Creighton, Wichita State, Miami and now Virginia over the last two plus seasons. The current senior class of Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald fueled the program's turnaround. Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh provides scoring punch previously lacking at power forward.
The Colonials improved to 5-0 for the second time under Lonergan. That previous campaign was 2013-14, which ended with an NCAA Tournament appearance. Nobody wants to look this far ahead, but here' the truth: GW is already tracking for another NCAA trip. Get through this upcoming tricky stretch of five games against top conference opponents starting with Tennessee Friday night in the Barclays Center Classic and don't bomb in the Atlantic 10, ticket punched. Oh, if you think the Colonials look like the best time right now in the A-10, you're not alone.
That's plenty of college basketball goodness for locals with big games galore from now through March. For those that want to dig a little deeper, there's more.
George Mason entered the season projected to finish 13th in the 14-team A-10 conference. The Patriots lived up to the no-hype with season opening losses to Colgate and Mercer. Just when one wondered when first-year coach Dave Paulsen would pick up his first win, George Mason stunned Ole Miss and Oklahoma State in the Charleston Classic before losing to Virginia in the final. Those wins are eye-openers especially since they came without suspended guard Patrick Holloway.
Senior center Shavon Thompson ranks among the national leaders in rebounding, but the real surprise is freshman wing Jaire Grayer. The son of former NBA player Jeff Grayer was a late recruiting pickup for Paulsen who now leads the Patriots in scoring (14.5). Finishing the season .500 might be a chore for this young team but winning games won't be easy for visiting A-10 schools won't be easy.
As for American, the rebuilding Eagles are 0-4 with an average margin of defeat 21 points. Turning this green bunch into Patriot League Tournament champions might be a stretch. Then again, the Eagles labored early in coach Mike Brennan's first season before finding their stride and reaching the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Either way, expect better days from the Ward Circle as the season rolls on.
Sure, the end is often more interesting than the beginning when it comes to college basketball. Yet the satisfaction comes when going along for the ride almost regardless of the final result. March will get here soon enough. If you like the Madness, it's worth hoping on board with Maryland, Georgetown and George Washington right now.