Now this is the way to kick off a season.
Old Dominion's men's basketball team, coming off a 27-9 season that included a first-round NCAA tournament victory, tips off its 2010-11 follow-up campaign against Georgetown, ranked No. 20 in The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll.
"We're excited about jumping into the season and playing somebody really good," said ODU coach Blaine Taylor, whose team received two votes in the AP poll. "(The Hoyas) are big and they're strong, but if you look at our team, we're typically defined that way. I'm not going to say we're the same, but at least we have good enough personnel to compete with them."
The Monarchs more than competed with the Hoyas last season. ODU's 61-57 victory at McDonough Arena on Dec. 19 was then-No. 11 Georgetown's first loss.
"Whether we won last year or lost last year, you want to win this game," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "Are we looking at this as a revenge game? No. Are our guys cognizant of the fact that they came in here last year and beat us? Yes. But we're not looking at this as, 'Let's go get some revenge.' We're just ready to start the season."
Both teams lost big men from last season's teams. Gerald Lee, who averaged 14.4 points per game for the Monarchs, is gone, as is Greg Monroe, who averaged 16 points and 9.6 rebounds as the Hoyas finished 23-11.
Georgetown returns its other four starters, including leading scorer and senior guard Austin Freeman, who averaged 16.5 points, and senior guard Chris Wright, who averaged 15.2. ODU returns five players who played starters' minutes, including senior guard Ben Finney, who scored 13 points last year at Georgetown.
"They're veterans," Thompson said. "They played a lot of minutes. As good as Lee was, I don't think they're going to spend too much time figuring out how to replace him. They have some pieces in place."
Finney, who averaged 8.8 points last year, scored 16 points as the Monarchs shot 50 percent in their final preseason tuneup, a 74-41 victory against Elizabeth State. Junior guard Kent Bazemore had 10 points and three steals, while senior forward Frank Hassell, ODU's leading returning scorer and rebounder (9.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) pulled down nine rebounds.
"People are going to have to do a little more in a lot of different areas" to offset Lee's graduation, Taylor said. "(Lee) did a lot of things that didn't show up in the stat sheet. … I like our older kids, and some of our younger kids are developing at a pretty good pace."
That has allowed the Monarchs, who will face a Paradise Jam tournament field that includes Clemson later this month in the Virgin Islands, to progress quickly in practice.
"By virtue of having a little more veteran team, I've had to kind of move ahead fast - because of the schedule, but also the kids are pretty quick on the pickup," Taylor said. "It's not as if we feel like we're behind, and I don't feel like we're ahead. We're kind of on schedule, and the games will determine how we move forward."
Starting with a doozy of an opening exam.
"This is probably one of the better early season games in the country," Thompson said. "We're coming in there and being thrown into the proverbial fire."