American University faces what coach Jim Lynam describes as "our biggest game of the year" when the Eagles play host to La Salle and super freshman Mike Brooks at Ft. Myer tonight at 8.
"If we're going to have a shot at the tournament, we have to have this one," said Lynam, whose 10-10 Eagles are 2-1 in the East section of the East Coast Conference. La Salle is 14-5 overall, 2-0 in the conference.
Each school plays only five league games - three teams earn tournament spots - and, as Lynam said, "The conference is so crazy, I just don't know if three wins will get us into the tournament." American also has to play a strong Hofstra team on the road in two weeks.
American's major concern tonight will be Brooks, a 6-foot-7 forward Lynam describes as "one of the top five freshmen in the country. He's a tremendous offensive rebounder, a good shooter, mobile, quick and a slashing driver. It's hard to believe he's only a freshman."
AU will start with junior forward Calvin Brown guarding Brooks, "but we'll have to mix it up," said Lynam. Brooks leads La Salle in scoring (21 points) and rebounding (12).
La Salle has a front line that averages 6-9 and is coming off a one-point victory over strong Villanova. American has lost its last two games and is still smarting from the officials' refusal to make a goaltending call in the final three minutes against St. Joseph's Wednesday night.
Two other area teams unhappy with recent officiating - Georgetown and George Washington - also return home tonight after disappointing road losses.
Georgetown's 8 p.m. meeting with Loyola of Chicago will be televised by WTTG-TV-5, and the Hoyas will be trying to rebound from an 82-66 loss to St. John's. GW faces Virginia Tech.
Hoya coach John Thompson complained about onesided officiating after the loss that dropped his team to 13-5. Loyola is 10-6.
The last time the teams met was in 1963. Loyola had won the national championship the previous season and was undefeated and reanked No. 1 when the Hoyas stunned them, 69-58, in the Quaker City tournament in Philadelphia.
GW's John Holloran was upset after game officials threw him out 4 1/2 minutes into the Colonial's loss to William & Mary Wednesday night. Holloran's scoring average went from 22 points to 19.9.
GW is 11-6 and has won eight of its last 10. Virginia Tech, led by senior forward Duke Thorpe, is 12-7 and coming off a loss to West Virginia Game time is 8 p.m. at Smith Center.
Catholic University's opponent tonight at Brookland Gymnasium knows all about the perils of the road. Iona is 9-1 at home, including a victory over St. John's, but has lost eight of nine on the road.
Iona coach Jim Valvano will start three freshmen against Catholic, now 7-9, in the 8 p.m. game.
Howard has another important Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game tonight at 8 p.m. at the Armory when North Carolina Central comes to town.
In other games involving area teams, Lynchburg plays at Navy at 1:30 p.m.; Roanoke is at George Mason at 8; Wake Forest plays at Virginia at 8.