Georgetown drew Rutgers yesterday in the NCAA's East Regional basketball tournament and landed in the same half of the draw as Duke. That puts a premium on the Hoyas getting injured center Tom Scates back into action.
Maryland received a bid last night to host Rhode Island on Wednesday at Cole Field House in the first round of the 24-team National Invitation Tournament. Virginia, one of three Atlantic Coast Conference teams selected, will play Northeast Louisiana Wednesday night in Charlottesville.
Maryland eagerly accepted after Coach Lefty Driesell, who turned down NIT bids in 1974 and 1977, sat by his telephone all day waiting and worrying.
Georgetown was seeded No. 3 in the East behind Atlantic Coast Coast Conference representatives North Carolina and Duke. With a first-round bye, the Hoyas will play Rutgers in the second round Saturday at Providence, R.I.
Rutgers' James Bailey and Duke's Mike Gminski are among the best centers in the nation.
Thompson is avowedly anxious about Scates, his 6-foot-11, 250-pound starting center. Thompson said Scates' availability is on a day-to-day basis, that he will try to practice when he feels the strained tendon in his left knee has healed sufficiently.
"The whole path is full of good centers," Thompson said. "That's the irony of that (Scates' injury). It's a similar situation to what we were in before Syracuse (a 66-58 Hoya win on Saturday) -- a team with an outstanding center.
"It's an inconvenience playing without Tommy. Ed Spriggs did an excellent job against Syracuse. He has to duplicate it. You have to work with what you have. The team started off this season with baptism in fire. Now it will be Ed's baptism in fire."
Thompson said Scates' status heavily clouds the Hoya prospects for advancement.
"It's very important to get involved in a situation where you can get Tommy ready," Thompson said. "I think the name of the game when you start talking about the NCAA tournament is the big guy in the middle. You've got to have a horse in the middle because eventually the game is won in the high-percentage area.
"The game is not won on the perimeter with long jump shots. You may emotionally, in certain sprees, win that way. But you're not going to win consistently. Tommy stops baskets from the inside... Tommy's size and stature becomes a very important factor for us simply because of the fact he can keep people from penetrating."
Rutgers is led by the 6-foot-9 Bailey, who was a preseason All-America. He led the Scarlet Knights to a 21-8 record, the Eastern Eight tournament title and nine straight victories going into the NCAA.
Spriggs, very mobile, is probably the better matchup for Georgetown against Bailey, who has excellent shooting rnage as well as being a solid defensive player. Duke's Gminski, on the other hand, is built more along Scates' lines, and he, like Bailey, can shoot the jumper.
Rutgers is seeded No. 6, the lowest positioning for a team with a firstround bye. Its bye was automatic because the Eastern Eight has one of the 16 best records in NCAA tournament play ove the past five seasons. Bailey, as a freshman, led Rutgers undefeated into the final four in 1976.
Playing at Providence encourages Thompson, Whose Hoyas had played at Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Tempe, Ariz., in their 1975 and 1976 NCAA appearances. Georgetown suffered firstround losses both times.
"I'm glad it's in Providence," Thompson said, setting aside the fact he went to college there. "It's the first time we've been able to play in the East and our fans will be able to see us."
Syracuse, seeded fourth, and No. 5 Connecticut will play the other game at Providence. Game time and television commitments will be announced, Tuesday morning. The winners advance to the regional semifinals at Greensboror, N.C. March 16-18.
Rutgers has not lost since the Scarlet Knights dropped a 74-71 decision at George Washington Feb. 3 after trailing by 25 points early in the second half.
"We've been playing well," said Coach Tom Young, former Maryland star guard who coached at American and Catholic in Washington. "Defensively, we've been playing well for a month and a half. We've been playing as well offensively as defensively for the past seven games."
Rutgers, which searched for the right starting five in December, never shot better than 50 percent through its first 16 games.
"We're getting better shots now," Young said. "Bailey's really playing well the last seven, eight, nine games. It took time for him to adjust and for the rest of the players to adjust to him. Both guards are JuCo transfers. It's Tom Brown's second season with us and Daryl Strickland's first. And Kelvin Troy (the small forward) is only a sophomore.
"We've shot over 50 percent in seven of our last eight games. Brown's been doing a tremendous job. He just put it together, doing the job of a quarterback and doing it well."
There has been some bad blood in the past between Thompson and Young, stemming from the days when Young coached at AU. Georgetown and Rutgers used to play regularly, but the serives was called off after a controversial 57-55 Hoya win here in the 1973-74 season.
Neither coach wanted to talk about those days yesterday. Who called off the series still remains in dispute.
"It was by mutual agreement," said Georgetown spokesman John Blake.
"They called it off," said Young.
The teams have played once since then, in a meaningless third-place game in last year's NIT. Rutgers jumped out to a big early lead and breezed, 85-72. Earlier in the day, Georgetown star guard Derrick Jackson had undergone surgery for a bleeding ulcer.
Saturday's game will mean much more, competitively and financially. Georgetown is guaranteed about $40,000 for making it into the tournament. Teams that gain the round of 16 are likely to make $100,000 to $120,000. Team payoffs are based on total tournament receipts.
Clemson is the other ACC team in the NIT, playing at Kentucky on Wednesday night. The Big Ten and Southeastern Conference also have three representatives apiece, an NIT first.
With the New York-based tournament expanding by eight teams this year, officials came up with a twist: All 24 teams will play first-round games, the winners will play in the second round and then two of the remaining six survivors will get byes directly to the semifinals March 19 at Madison Square Garden.
As of early last night, no brackets had been determined.
The NIT announced the following games:
Wednesday -- Nevada-Reno at Oregon State, Wagner at Old Dominion, St, Joseph's at Ohio State, Rhode Island at Maryland, St. Bonaventure at Alabama, Clemson at Kentucky, Northeast Louisiana at Virginia.
Thursday -- Alcorn State at Mississippi State, the Mid-American Conference runner-up (Toledo or Central Michigan) at Purdue, Indiana at Texas Tech, Holy Cross at Dayton, Texas A&M at New Mexico.
Rhode Island is led by 6-7 junior forward Sly Williams. The Rams missed an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament when they were upset by Connecticut, 58-50, Saturday.