Georgetown coach John Thompson woke up yesterday morning in Loretto, Pa., with the taste of the previous night's defeat to St. Francis College still in his mouth, like an old sweat sock.
He'd never do that again, he vowed - never schedule an "inconvenient, distracting game" on the road just 48 hours before the ECAC Southern Division playoff.
Thompson looked out the motel window - snow.
Just what he needed: to get snowed into Loretto when he only had a matter of hours to prepare his team for powerful Old Dominion tonight at 8 p.m. at McDonough Gym.
At the airport he could only get 10 players in the regularly scheduled flight to D.C. Five players were going to have to come back in a five-seat-aircraft.
Who to put in the glorified crop duster?
"Ball-handlers in the little plane, ordered Thompson. "We gotta save our rebounders for Old Dominion."
It would be impossible for Georgetown to take the 24-2 Monarchs of Old Dominion more seriously than they do.
"They're like we were a few years ago," said Thompson "People said, 'Who's Georgetown?' back then. Now they say, 'Who's Old Dominion?'
"Well, we know who they are. They remind us of Holy Cross, but with a better center." (The Hoyas beat Holy Cross.)
That center is 6-9 Wilson Washington - 18-1 points, 11 rebounds a game and a 60.9 shooting percentage. "He was one of the few juniors invited to the Olympic trials last year," said Thompson. "He makes me wish I had game."
As if Wilson were not enough, ODU's 6-7 freshman forward Ronnie Valentine scores 22 a game with 9.3 rebounds "The night I scouted them," said Thompson. "Valentine had 38 points and six dunks. He wasn't the worst player I ever saw."
In short, GU can be glad it was awared the home court advantage by an ECAC committee on the nebulous basis of "overall record and strength of schedule."
"I won't say I was disappointed that we got it," said Thompson, whose 19-7 team is 12-1 at home. "We've come out on the short end of a lot of political decisions in my five years here. I've always said I prefer a neutral court for playoff games, but if there had to be a home team, I'm glad it's us."
Certainly GU fans, who have seen their team shipped as far away as Arizona for first-round NCAA tournsment play, felt it was about time they got a last laugh.
Old Dominion, however, wasn't grinning yesterday. "We were disappointed in Sunday's decision," said ODU athletic director James Jarrett. "Of course it's subjective as hell. Strength of schedule. Who knows? We've won 21 in a row and we obviously disagree. Our fans naturally think we were robbed.
"We know we're the new kid on the block (in Division I) and we didn't expect any favors," said Jarrett. "And we didn't get any. I just wish they'd played St. Francis one day sooner. They're our one common opponent. We beat the Red Flash by 24; Geogetown lost by seven."
The Monarch's piqued fans - 1,300 of them - bought up the school's allotment of tickets in 90 minutes yesterday.
The Georgetown gym and the Georgetown team that will meet the Monarchs will both be a full strength. "I hope the fire marshal doesn't show up at the game," said a GU official. "We may sell more standing room tickets than seats."
All five of the players that Thompson held out, or rest rained, in the perfunctory game against St. Francis, will play tonight, though John Duren, Craig Shelton, Larry Long and Gary Wilson are all favoring a variety of sore ankles and knees.
"We save our energies and protect our injured players all year just to point for these tournament games," said Thompson. "Tomorrow is the whole world for us . . . Now we'll find out if we're as good as we were the last two years."