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2023-24 DMV Men's College Hoops Preview - Who Can Dance?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s opening week for the 2023-24 Men’s College Basketball season and the DMV has five teams ready to hit the ground running.


The DMV has two teams that are looking to build off NCAA Tournament appearances last year, two teams that will feature a new head coach this season, and three school’s that desperately want to make it back to the Big Dance.


For this DMV Men’s College Hoops Preview, we take a closer look at the area school’s that I’ll be following closely this season for both House Enterprise and Road to the Garden: Howard, Maryland, American, George Washington, and Georgetown.


For the purposes of this article, I’ve broken down each school in the order of best overall record from last season, taking a closer look at where they are, where they were, and where they’re going.


It’s going to be a fun season in the DMV and I couldn’t be more excited to be back for another year of covering college hoops in the area.

 

Nuts & Bolts:

  • 2022-23 Record: 22-13 overall (11-3, 1st in MEAC)

  • Head Coach: Kenny Blakeney (5th season, 43-59 overall)

  • Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

  • 2023-24 DMV Opponents: N/A

  • 2023-24 Notable Non-Conference Opponents:

    • @ Georgia Tech

    • @ Rutgers

    • vs. Cincinnati

Overview


Howard is coming off its best season in school history and is poised to come back with another phenomenal campaign.


The Bison won 22 games last year, the most they’ve won since the 1986-87 season. They won the MEAC for the first time in 31 years and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in that same span.


Head Coach Kenny Blakeney now enters his fifth season in charge of the Bison program.


In his first year, Howard went 4-29. In his second, the season was canceled due to COVID after a disappointing 1-4 start. Then, in 2021-22, he started to turn things around, finishing with a 16-13 record and 9-5 in the MEAC.


Finally, it all came together in 2022-23. Howard had an incredible amount of depth, which allowed them to play harder for longer.


That effort resulted in a MEAC regular season title, a MEAC Tournament title, and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.


For the Bison to maintain its upward trajectory, they’ll have to replace the loss of its two leading scorers, Elijah Hawkins and Steve Settle.


Either way, it’s been an incredible turnaround for Kenny Blakeney and his Bison.


Last Season


Last year, I predicted that Howard would make its first NCAA Tournament in 31 years. Well, mission accomplished.


Howard won the MEAC regular season, MEAC Conference Tournament, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, putting together its best season in modern history.


This came just four years into the tenure of Head Coach Kenny Blakeney, who led Howard to a 22-13 season just four years removed from a 4-29 campaign.

The Bison clinched the MEAC regular season title on their home floor in a March 2, 87-67 win over Norfolk State.


Nine days later, Howard beat the same team in the MEAC Tournament Championship Game 65-64 to advance to its first NCAA Tournament since 1992.


The Bison then traveled to Des Moines as a 16 seed to take on the powerhouse Kansas Jayhawks.


Howard had the game tied at 33 late in the first half before a late KU run to close out the first half took the air out of the Bison, eventually falling 96-68.


The Bison were led by Elijah Hawkins, who led the team in scoring with 12.9 PPG, and assists at 6 APG.


He, and the second leading scorer, Steve Settle, are no longer in the program.


Fortunately, Blakeney’s style of play ensures that no player is greater than the team.


Last year, Howard had nine players that averaged more than 11 minutes of playing time per game, and seven players who averaged 7 points or more per game.


They rotated a lot last year, which led them to the NCAA Tournament. I expect more of the same come 2023-24 for Blakeney’s Bison.


This Season

Howard’s top two scorers from last year are gone, but the third, fourth, and fifth scorers on a team loaded with talent are returning.


Shy Odom, Jelani Williams, and Marcus Dockery will be the ones charged with leading this team.


Odom, who was just a freshman last season, was third on the team in scoring (10.9 PPG), and hauled in 4.6 RPG while shooting 54% from the field. I expect him to take the biggest step forward for Howard in 2023-24.


With Odom leading the way as a sophomore, paired with veteran leadership from Dockery and others, it’s hard not to see a path back to the NCAA Tournament for Howard.


Regardless, it all comes down to what happens in the MEAC Tournament in March.


Prediction: Howard goes to back-to-back NCAA Tournament’s for the first time in history

 

Nuts & Bolts:

  • 2022-23 Record: 22-13 overall (11-9, 5th in B1G)

  • Head Coach: Kevin Willard (2nd season, 22-13 overall)

  • Conference: Big 10

  • 2023-24 DMV Opponents:

    • vs. UMBC

  • 2023-24 Notable Non-Conference Opponents:

    • @ Villanova

    • @ UCLA

Overview


The Terps head into 2023-24 with high expectations.


Following a 15-17 season two years ago, Maryland sought new leadership and hired new Head Coach Kevin Willard from Seton Hall.


What followed was an NCAA Tournament campaign that few expected, as Willard led his Terps to a 22-13 season and a trip to the Round of 32 of the Big Dance.


After low expectations yielded high rewards, the question becomes what high expectations might yield.


Maryland has not advanced past the Sweet 16 since 2002. It’ll be on Willard to carry his team at least to another tournament appearance and beyond this season.


Last Season


After a 15-17 season in 2021-22 in which the Terps finished below .500 for the first time since 1993, Maryland hired Kevin Willard as its new head coach.


Willard had spent the previous 12 seasons at Seton Hall, taking the Pirates to five NCAA Tournaments in that span.


Coming to Maryland, the expectation was Willard would be able to take the Terps back to the tournament where they belonged, but probably not right away.


Well, doubters proved wrong. Maryland did make the NCAA Tournament as an 8 seed and advanced to the Round of 32 after taking down West Virginia 67-65 before losing to the top overall seed Alabama 73-51.

Maryland students rush the floor after defeating #3 Purdue in College Park (Photo: Maryland Athletics)


Maryland started 8-0 before struggling in early December and into January before hitting their stride in late January and all of February, marked by the season’s signature win over #3 Purdue in College Park in an emphatic 68-54 victory.


It was a momentum-shifting year for the Maryland program and pivotal that they were able to put together a strong first season under Kevin Willard.


With multiple key players returning for another year in College Park, the Terps could be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 10.


This Season


How a year can change expectations.


Entering this year, Maryland is projected to finish 3rd in the Big 10 Conference, according to Sports Illustrated.

The Terps bring back three of its top four scorers from a season ago, Jahmir Young, Julian Reese, and Donta Scott who could easily end up with postseason honors when the year is all said and done.

Along with the key pieces coming back, Maryland has also brought in some nice additions, including new recruits DeShawn Harris Smith and Jamie Kaiser, along with transfers Jordan Geronimo from Indiana, Chance Stephens from Loyola Marymount and Mady Traore from New Mexico State.


With ten players gone from last year's roster, the overhaul across the roster, both through transfers and incoming freshmen, is critical, and that is exactly what Kevin Willard has done.


The key question coming into the season is depth. Maryland had very little production from its bench a season ago and will need much more to take the next step forward in 2023-24.


With a non conference schedule that features road trips to Villanova and UCLA, the Terps don’t have a ton of time to hit the ground running before starting through the gauntlet of its Big 10 schedule.


Prediction: Top 5 Big 10 Finish, Advance to the NCAA Tournament

 

Nuts & Bolts:

  • 2022-23 Record: 17-15 overall (7-11, 6th in Patriot)

  • Head Coach: Duane Simpkins (1st season)

  • Conference: Patriot League

  • 2023-24 DMV Opponents:

    • @ Georgetown

  • 2023-24 Notable Non-Conference Opponents:

    • @ Villanova

    • @ Harvard

    • @ Saint Joseph’s

Overview


A new era begins in Northwest DC as for the first time since the 2013-14 season, American has a new head coach.

49-year old Duane Simpkins was hired on April 1, 2023 to become the new AU head coach. It’s his first ever head coaching gig at the college level.


It’s a homecoming for Simpkins, who played his college ball at Maryland from 1992-1996 and coached local high school’s Sidwell Friends and St. Albans.


After St. Albans, Simpkins began his college coaching career as an assistant at UNC Greensboro before moving to George Mason.


Simpkins inherits a program that had just four winning seasons in the ten under former head coach Mike Brennan, including three seasons with less than 10 wins.


The Eagles have not been to the NCAA Tournament since Brennan’s first at the helm in 2014.


Perhaps AU can get some more first-year-head-coach magic for Simpkins as well.


Last Season


American flew off to a fantastic start in 2022-23, going 12-3 to start the year, including starting 4-0 in conference play.


From there, however, the season came crashing down. Over their final 14 regular season games, AU went 3-11 to finish 15-14 in the regular season.


Despite a disappointing final half of the season, Head Coach Mike Brennan got his team in gear for a postseason run, winning their first two games of the campus-site Patriot League Tournament, taking out Bucknell 64-59 in DC and defeating Navy on the road 52-51.

American's Matt Rogers celebrates AU's Patriot League Tournament win over Navy (Photo: AU Athletics)


In the semifinals, American faced off with Lafayette and fell behind by as many as 21 with under ten minutes to go, before fighting all the way back and somehow forcing overtime. In double-OT, American ran out of gas and fell 84-76, bringing the season to an end.


In the days that followed, Brennan and the school parted ways, opening up the head coaching position that, of course, was filled by Duane Simpkins.


This Season


There is seldom any sense of expectations around the American program, which has not been to the NCAA Tournament in ten years and has never won a game in the Big Dance.


Duane Simpkins is here to change that.


Fortunately for him, he has a lot of pieces back that should hopefully help streamline the transition from one head coach to another.


The Eagles bring back four of their five top scorers from a season ago, including Forward Matt Rogers, who led the team last year with just over 14 points per game and hauled in an average of 6.3 rebounds per game.


Rogers headlines a group of returners made up of seniors and juniors that will provide necessary veteran leadership.


Last year, American was off to a hot start winning 12 of their first 15 games before floundering to a 3-11 stretch to close out the regular season.


With a core of players that have been there before, you’d figure they’d be determined to ensure that does not happen again.


Prediction: Middle of the pack finish in the Patriot League - misses postseason play

 

Nuts & Bolts:

  • 2022-23 Record: 16-16 overall (10-8, 7th in Atlantic 10)

  • Head Coach: Chris Caputo (2nd season, 16-16 overall)

  • Conference: Atlantic 10

  • 2023-24 DMV Opponents:

    • vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore

  • 2023-24 Notable Non-Conference Opponents:

    • vs. Hofstra

    • @ South Carolina

Overview


Following a season with low expectations yielding relatively high rewards, Head Coach Chris Caputo enters his second year at the helm of the George Washington program, and his first as the George Washington ‘Revolutionaries.’

A new name and a new court with an arena makeover has folks buzzing around Foggy Bottom. But nothing has people excited more than the return of James Bishop IV, who is back after leading the team in scoring and finishing 13th in the nation in points per game (21.6 PPG).


George Washington had a high-powered offense last year, with one of the Atlantic 10’s worst defenses. A big reason why the defense struggled was a severe lack of depth, with GW often playing just six players throughout an entire game.


That should change for the 2023-24 season. With tons of new faces suiting up for Caputo, it should be a much different look not just because of the name on the jersey, but the overall style of play we’ll see from the team.


Last Season


Chris Caputo was an assistant at George Mason under Jim Larranaga from 2005-2011, hired there when he was just 25 years old. There, he helped the Patriots reach the Final Four in 2006, as one of the greatest Cinderella runs in NCAA Tournament history.


In 2011, he followed Larranga to Miami and was there until 2022, helping the Hurricanes reach five NCAA Tournament’s, including a run to the Elite 8 in 2022.


It was that 2022 run with Miami that helped Caputo get noticed by George Washington and ultimately what helped him become the new head coach.


What followed was the best season GW has had since 2017, as Caputo led his team to a 16-16 record, including a 10-8 finish in the Atlantic 10 Conference.


The season highlights included a 79-55 home win over South Carolina in late November, two 40+ point performances by James Bishop IV, and a late-season run that propelled the team to avoid an opening round game in the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Brooklyn.


Although the season ended with a loss in GW’s first A10 Tournament game against Saint Joseph’s, it’s hard not to see the immense improvement and leadership that Caputo has brought to DC thanks to his years of experience as an assistant under a coaching legend.


This Season

George Washington returns just two key players from last year's team.


James Bishop IV is a point guard in his final season of eligibility and is one of the most prolific scorers in the country.


He was the first GW player to make the all-conference first team since 2006 and to have him back on the team for another year after some uncertainty this Summer is a huge deal for Chris Caputo.


Maximus Edwards is the other key returner for GW. Averaging over 10 PPG and 6.5 rebounds per game, Edwards is the reigning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and will look to build off his very impressive freshman campaign.


Besides the two key returners, Caputo brought in five transfers to Foggy Bottom and added four major freshmen, most notably Jacoi Hutchinson.


Hutchinson is a shooting guard from DC who played his final high school year at the renowned IMG Academy in Florida.


He is the highest rated recruit in George Washington basketball history, according to 247 sports.


The Revolutionaries will be young and will take time to gel with one another. However, it’s not hard to see that Caputo is building something significant.



GW has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014 and I don’t think that changes this year. However, with the young talent on this team paired with veteran leadership, it’s not crazy to think this team could get hot and play well at the right time to make something happen.


Undoubtedly, another fun year ahead in Foggy Bottom.


Prediction: An improvement from last year’s 16-16 record, misses postseason play

 

Nuts & Bolts:

  • 2022-23 Record: 7-25 overall (2-18 Big East)

  • Head Coach: Ed Cooley (1st season)

  • Conference: Big East

  • 2023-24 DMV Opponents:

    • vs. American

  • 2023-24 Notable Non-Conference Opponents:

    • @ Rutgers

    • vs. TCU

    • vs. Syracuse

    • @ Notre Dame

Overview


In-depth look at the 2023-24 Georgetown Hoyas available HERE.


Prediction: 13-18 overall (5-15 Big East), 10th place in Big East Final Standings


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