Jim Graziano, the latest recruit at South Carolina through coach Frank McGuire's New York connection, will be a center of attention tonight when the Gamecocks visit Georgetown in the area's feature college basketball game.

For Georgetown, the 8 p.m. game at McDonough Gym (WTTG-TV-5) will be a test against a name school with a legitimate center. How well the Hoyas can do against the 6-foot-9 sophomore will serve as a barometer of their chances at postseason success against teams that will have such centers.

In other games, Maryland will try to break a three-game losing streak against Air Force (WTOP-TV-9, 6 p.m.); Howard hosts Morgan State in an important Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference matchup; Penn State visits George Washington for an 8 p.m. Eastern Eight game, Catholic plays its first home game in five weeks at 2 p.m. against Colgate, and Navy hosts St. Francis (Pa. 1:15).

Area teams on the road today include Virginia, with a key Atlantic Coast Conference matchup N.C. State (regionally televised by WJLA-TV-7; at 1 p.m.; American traveling to Buckneel for a 3 p.m. contest and George Mason in a 7:30 game at Baltimore U.

South Carolina is still playing the same style of basketball that won McGuire a national championship at North Carolina. The Gamecocks are potient on offense but aggressive in their man-to-man defense. Their 8-6 record includes losses to Kentucky and Clemson and wins over Clemson and Minnesota.

Georgetown takes a nine-game winning streak into this contest and the polls have the Hoyas ranked 12th (by the coaches) and 17th (by the media). Coach John Thompson says he cannot call his team great until the center polition is stabilized.

Tommy Scates, Georgetown's 6-11, 255-pound starter, has shown solid impronement this year, but this will be his first matchup against a legitimate major-college center. Graziano is averaging 13 points and eight rebounds a game.

South Carolina, however, will not be at full strength because point guard Jackie Gilloon, the quickest Gamecock, injured an ankle Wednesday and will not play, a South Carolina spokesman said.

Maryland has lost all three of its ACC games and, as is his custom following any loss, coach Lefty Driesell is likely to have a new starting five for an 8-4 Air Force team that plays with typical military discipline.

Driesell is still loking for better defense and rebounding. So the best bet for a switch tonight is at center, with Mike Davis replacing Lawrence Gibson. Freshman forward Albert King, who suffered a minor back injury against N.C. State Wednesday, is healed and will start.

George Washington, which has not played at home since Dec. 10, will be facing a 5-8 team that, like the Colonials, is 1-2 in the Eastern Eight. Penn State's victory came against Rutgers, a league favorite; the Colonials beat Pittsburgh.

GW, with eight of its next 11 games at home, has a 6-4 record. Center Mike Zagardo and forward Tom Glenn have given the Colonials the inside game they have lacked recently. But GW needs a shooting guards, and coach Bob Tallent says Bob Lindsay will start shooting more.

For Howard, coach A.B. Williamson considers the game against arch-rival Morgan as the Bison's most important of the season. Howard was the preseason favorite in the MEAC, but has not yet recovered from a 17-day holiday layoff that left the bison rusty.

The Bison have not beaten Morgan State since 1972, losing three games last year by a total of nine points.

"A win Saturday night can carry us. It's big psychologically for us," said Williamson, whose team is 6-3. "We're still not playing as well as we have been. We haven't been able to practice in our own gym for weeks. It's registration. Takes priority, you know.