Two of the nation's premiere programs tip off the season tonight on the U.S.S. Bataan in Jacksonville, as the 10th- ranked Florida Gators take on the Georgetown Hoyas.
Georgetown enjoyed another great season under John Thompson III last year, winning 24 games overall while tallying an impressive 12-6 mark in the Big East Conference. The Hoyas' efforts were good enough to land them in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the last seven years, although they were ousted prior to reaching the Sweet 16 in their fourth straight tournament appearance.
Billy Donovan's 16th season as the head coach at Florida was another outstanding one, as the Gators finished the 2011-12 regular season as one of the SEC's best teams (26-11, 10-6 SEC). The campaign culminated in an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and an improbable run to the Elite Eight for the second straight season. Florida always starts off the season on the right foot, having won 21 consecutive season openers.
Each team has recorded two wins in the all-time series against the other, although Florida has won the last two games, most recently during the 2006 NCAA Tournament (57-53).
Georgetown wasn't the strongest team in the Big East last season in terms of scoring (69.0 ppg), but it was great at holding opponents off the scoreboard as it put together outstanding field goal percentage defense (.387) as well as from three-point range (.279). Little is the same for the Hoyas this season however, as they said goodbye to their three top performers in Jason Clark (14.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Hollis Thompson (12.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Henry Sims (11,8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 45 blocks). Otto Porter (9.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg), who started just eight games as a freshman a season ago, will be looked to as the go-to guy. Joining Porter in the frontcourt will be returning starter Nate Lubrick (3.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg), who may be better suited as a role player. Markel Starks (7.1 ppg) will once again start at guard and his usage is bound to go way up after averaging less than six shot attempts per game last season. A pair of freshmen centers, Brandon Bolden (6-10, 205) and Bradley Hayes (7-0, 248), were brought in to bulk up the frontcourt.
In 2011-12, Florida scored 75.9 ppg and drained nearly 10 three-pointers per game, and this year it will certainly miss stud shooting guard Bradley Beal (14.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg), who was selected No. 3 in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, but the squad will still have some of the best talent in the SEC with three returning starters. Last season's leading scorer Kenny Boynton (15.9 ppg) starts the year ranked eighth in program history with 1,589 points, and he is within striking distance of Ronnie Montgomery's school record (2,090). Also returning to the starting lineup is Erik Murphy (10.5 ppg), who connected on more than 48 percent of his three-pointers a season ago, and 6-9 center Patric Young (10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg, .618 FG percentage). It also returns much of its bench, with Mike Rosario (6.6 ppg) showing promise from three-point land and Will Yeguete (4.4, 6.3 rpg) bringing experience to the frontcourt. Freshman Braxton Ogbueze (6-0, 182) should see plenty of action as he was one of the highest-rated point guards in the last recruiting class.