Undefeated, 14th-ranked Georgetown, needing two victories for its best start in the school's basketball history, is likely to face two of the most divergent styles of play possible in the Wolf Pack Invitational starting Wednesday.
The Hoyas (6-0) play Fresno State (3-4), a team that is more likely to pass the ball for a minute that shoot it, in the 10 p.m. EST (WINX-1600) opener at Centennial Coliseum.
Nevada-reno (5-1), a team that speeds up the tempo so much it plays out of control at times, faces Eastern Kentucky (5-2), which nearly qualifies as another Washington team with Eastern High grads James (Turk) Tillman, averaging almost 27 points a game, and Lovell Joiner also a possible starter.
That midnight game is expected to perhaps double the point output of Georgetown and Fresno. With that in mind, Georgetown Coach John Thompson wants his team to step up its pace. That means Thompson may be forced to test his freshman reserves for the first time.
"We've got to play now - press, run, do some things that involve some people," Thompson said. "We're just a little too inexperienced right now.
"This team (Fresno) will play cat and mouse. They hold the blal and pass it and pass it and pass it. It's easy to get in foul trouble. If we get in early foul trouble, we're going to have to rely on some freshmen we haven't had in the ball game."
Because of its offensive style, Fresno was second in the nation in defense among Division I teams last week. Only center Art Williams, a 6-5 senior who plays like 6-8, returns from last year's 21-6 team that tied San Diego State for first place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference.
Despite their style, the Bulldogs are shooting only 42.3 percent from the field. How well freshman guard Don Mason controls the offense likely will determine Fresno's fate. The player he replaced, Doug Streeter, was the key to last season's team.
"We've got to keep great defensive concentration." said Thompson, whose team is ranked 15th defensively. "A team that plays like that predicates their offense on exploiting your defense. One of the things that's important, too, is that you can't afford to get behind, because you can't mix your defenses."
Thompson said he expects to start what has become his regualr five-Tom Scates at center, Craig Shelton and Steve Martin at forward, John Duren and freshman Eric (Sleepy) Floyd at guard. Center Ed Spriggs is first off the bench, and fellow freshmen Eric Smith, Jeff Bullis and Mike Hancock are the players for whom Thompson wants more playing time.
The final, at midnight (EST) Thursday, likely will pair the Hoyas and the host team.
Nevada-Reno is probably one of the best little-known college teams around-far less renowned than the state school in Las Vegas, but having suffered the same NCAA probation consequences. Reno's problems stemmed from the signing of 6-10 senior center Edgar Jones.
The Pack is off probation, but only a court injuction allows Jones to play, since the NCAA ruled him inelibible. He is expected to be a high first-round draft choice by the pros.
He is augmented by the "Sky and Fly Show" of shooting guard Mike (Fly) Gray and passer-defender Johnny (Sky) High, who also is considered a pro prospect. The Pact likes to press to increase tempo.
The Pack's in trouble when Jones is in foul trouble, as he was in the team's only loss, at Southwestern Louisiana following a road win over Houston, and when the Pack starts running around like wild wolves.
Thompson wants a chess game, not war, against Reno if the two meet in the final.
"you prefer to control the tempo yourself" when you play on the court of a team that likes to run, he said. "we still want to run, but we will be very selective in our shots. If you get in a highly emotional game, the emotions are going to be on their side because of their fans and their gymnasium."
Sports betting is legal in Nevada, but not on games involving Nevada schools. So there are no odds posted on this tournament, but Jim Carey, the Reno coach said, "You've got to favor Georgetown because of record, ranking and caliber of opposition."
Thompson was not the least bit slighted when the Hoyas did not move up more in the rankings this week.
"I don't get involved with that," he said. "Sports information directors and fans make me conscious of it. The polls at this time of the year are totally irrelevant. It's good that it gets you national attention, but I don't believe in the validity of them at this stage."