John Thompson and his banged-up Georgetown Hoyas left for Blacksburg, Va., yesterday in as grim and grouchy a mood as any grizzly bear they might run across in the Shenandoah Valley.
"I'm extremely disappointed, discouraged and embrassed," said Thompson as he took his 19-8 team into battle tonight at 9 p.m. against Virginia Tech in a first-round regional game of the NIT.
"Here I am taking a beat-up, injured team that still wants to play ball into a national tournament and all we read and hear about is how Maryland has turned down a bid to play in the same tournament.
"We're the ones who are playing, but you'd never know it. I'm disappointed in this town. It's totally disgraceful to have been treated like this by the media.
"Not only are was shunted and told that we only got into the NIT because Maryland pulled out - which I know for a fact isn't true - but we've become the scapegoat in a feud between Maryland and the NIT," said Thompson angrily.
"A lot of untruths are being thrown back and forth between Maryland and the NIT. There are [WORD ILLEGIBLE] ones flying around that don't make two and consequently a lot of people are ducking and covering their tracks. But I'd appreciate it if they'd stop using us for a Ping-Pong ball."
Georgetown had other problems yesterday as the team departed for Blacksburg's Cassell Coliseum, a coop where the 18-9 UPI Gobblers are about as easy to beat (24 losses in 16 seasons) as the Idi Amin all-stars would be in Uganda.
A Hoya sendoff party of about a dozen people (with one drum) groaned yesterday when they saw second-lending scored Al Dutch emerge from McDonough Gymnasium on crutches. Dutch is the latest victim of what Thompson calls "a ghostly plague of sprained ankles" that has visited the team.
Recuperating John Duren, Tom Scates and Ed Hopkins are all scheduled to play when the Hoya Hobblers meet the Gobblers, but Dutch is still a questionable starter.
Nevertheless, neither injuries, nor strategies, nor VPI's 62 per cent shooter Duke Thorpe (15.6ppg) were on Thompson's tongue yesterday.
"If we were looking for attention and publicity, maybe we should have turned down the NIT bid instead of participating," said Thompson ruefully. "For the second straight year, we're the only Washington area school going to a postseason tournament, but we're treated as an after thought.
"We do somethign positive and we still play second fiddle to Maryland doing nothing. I have no anger toward Maryland. It's two completely separate things. I'm upset that something positive is going on here at Georgetown - we've been in postseason play three years in a row; how many schools in the country can say that? - and it goes unnoticed.
"People tell me 'Just stick to sports," said Thompson. "But it seems like maybe I need to do something controversial to get my players the attention they've earned."
Georgetown was particularly miffed by a statement by NIT director Pete Carlesimo that GU was not in the original 16-team field and only got a bid because Maryland balked.
"Carlesimo and (Maryland athletic director) Jim Kehoe are so busy trying to make each other look bad that they're getting their stories crossed up," said an official at Georgetown.
"It's so obvious. The NIT was delighted to offer Maryland a game in Lefty Driesell's home town (Norfolk) where he could be embrassed by losing a first-round game to no-name team that has a Maryland transfer (Wilson Washington) for a star. It was a perfectly fair offer by the NIT, but one they must have loved to make.
"Maryland does not want to play a game where they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose. They've had a bad enough prestige year already without losing to Old Dominion. So they dream up a song and dance about 30 minute deadlines and Driesell being unavailable. They're just saving face. Who'd blame them? Now Carlesimo's trying to stick it to them again, but he's using us as a pawn by saying we weren't even in the tournament when Maryland was being considered," said the GU official.
Both Thompson and GU athletic director Frank Rienzo indicated yesterday that they had been virtually certain since last week, because of NIT assertions, that they would get a bid.
"You don't start investigating post season bids after the season is over," grinned Thompson. "We don't here and I'm sure Maryland doesn't either."
Despite its surface anger, Georgetown was still very pleased yesterday to have another chance to win its 20th game and dispel the memory of last week's 22-point loss to Old Domonion.
"There are about 800 teams (in the entire NCAA) that would like to be where we are," said Thompson. "My kids are ready. Dutch tells me, 'Hey coach. I'm ready to go.'
"We shouldn't be in that bad shape. Craig Shelton will have to play a lot. The other guys? Well, an ankle doesn't sound like such a big injury. But ankles - what can you say - you stand on "em".
The Hoyas, who would meet the winner of tonight's Memphis State-vs. Alabama game Monday in New York if they win, may have an unusual advantage because of Virginia Tech's style of play.
The Hoyas, loaded with top one-on-one offensive talent, especially with Shelton in the low post, have faced a diet of sagging zones and cautious offenses for two years. It is the universal antidote to what coaches see as the Hoyas' overall superiority in talent.
"I'd say they have more ability than we do," said Moir. "We know we've got to scratch and claw. But we'll stay with our style even if maybe that isn't what the book says you should do."