George Washington and American universities play league games tonight that are critical to their hopes for home-court advantages in their postseason tournaments.

George Washington will take on Rutgers at Smith Center at 8 (WDCA-TV-20) while American plays host to La Salle at Fort Myer, also at 8, and Georgetown goes on the road to face Detroit at 2 p.m.

Other games involving area teams find Virginia playing host to Wake Forest at 2 p.m. in an Atlantic Coast Conference contest in Charlottesville, Canisius at Catholic at 8 p.m., Howard at North Carolina Central at 8, George Mason at Towson State at 8 and Navy at William and Mary, also at 8.

GW Coach Bob Tallent, reeling from injuries and an 8-10 start, said he probably will bench point guard Tom Tate tonight against Rutgers and start Brian Magid with Curt Jeffries in the back court.

Jeffries, a sophomore who missed seven weeks early in the season with a leg injury, has emerged as the Colonials' No. 1 guard, in the absence of the injured Bob Lindsay (knee). Lindsay played 19 minutes against Penn State Wednesday night and is likely to get about the same amount of playing time tonight, Tallent said.

Tallent said that by the end of the season he most likely will be starting Jeffries and Lindsay.

GW needs a victory tonight to stay in contention for a home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Eight playoffs. The Colonials are 2-4 in league play. Rutgers is 5-1 in the league, 12-6 overall, with a team that includes All-America center James Bailey.

American can clinch a home-court playoff spot with a victory over La Salle, which is 6-0 in East Coast Conference play. In the ECC, the top two teams in the East earn first-round byes and the next two host first-round games.

La Salle, 11-9 overall, brings a fastbreaking team to Ft. Myer gym, led by forward Michael Brooks and guard Kurt Kanaskie.

Georgetown would like to be in a position to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of what it does in the Ecac/ playoffs.

The Hoyas, 16-3, come off a distressing one-point loss to Oral Roberts Wednesday and face a Detroit team that is 15-4. Georgetown nipped the Titans, 83-82, a year ago in Washington.