On Saturday, college basketball was treated to a revival of one of its most revered historic rivalries when Syracuse went to Washington, DC, to face its former Big East foe, Georgetown. The Hoyas — after a shocking season-opening loss to Radford — are in the midst of climbing their way back to respectability. Since that first night, Georgetown has beaten Wisconsin and put forth admirable if not losing performances against top 10 teams Duke and Maryland. One of their strengths is how deep, talented and young they are, but the biggest surprise on this season’s roster might be the sharp improvement of senior Bradley Hayes. After spending two years mostly on the bench, the seven-footer has proven himself not just as a serviceable component but as a crucial cog in John Thompson III’s offense. In Georgetown’s 79-72 win over the Orange, Hayes was very often the best player on the court.
Coming into the season, the Hoyas were unsure of what to expect from a senior who spent most of the last two seasons as a backup, averaging only 0.9 PPG in a handful of minutes. There was also the added pressure of replacing Joshua Smith, an offensively talented big man who averaged 10.8 PPG and 5.8 RPG last season. In the first six games of this season, though, Hayes has filled Smith’s big shoes, averaging 10.3 PPG and 6.0 RPG and acting as a noticeable improvement on the defensive end of the floor. His rebounding rates, per KenPom’s metrics, rank within the top 300 nationally (11.9% OR; 19.8% DR), and his block percentage is also excellent (3.5%; 364th nationally). Those are laudable numbers from a player who was not heralded coming out of high school and was an afterthought until this season at Georgetown.