Georgetown figures to be too big, too fast and too quick for upstart James Madison to handle in Providence, R.I. tonight in the opening round of the NCAA East Region tournament.

The Hoyas have played a tougher schedule and know what it's like to compete for college basketball's national championship.

JMU (20-8) will try to live up to the billing of "the best team nobody every heard of," in the 7 p.m. game with Georgetown (20-11) at the Providence Civic Center (WRC-TV-4). The game is JMU's first appearance in Division I postseason play. Brigham Young (22-6) plays Ivy League champ Princeton (18-9)) at 9:30.

One plus for the Dukes is that they feel little pressure. The players and Coach Lou Campanelli appear glad just to be in the tournament -- they qualified by winning the ECAC South tournament -- and consider any further success this season as icing on the cake.

Georgetown, having enhanced its national reputation by advancing to the East regional final a year ago, has the tournament experience, but as the favorite will undoubtedly feel more pressure.

The winner will meet Notre Dame here Saturday at 4 p.m.

For JMU to beat the Hoyas, it will have to play the kind of defense that kept the Dukes among the top 10 defensive teams in the nation for most of the year.

The Dukes allowed 57 points per game in a league filled with teams that like to run. Only twice did they permit 70 or more points, and one of those games went into overtime.

But only three teams on the Dukes' schedule ran offenses that are as disciplined, patterned and efficient as that of John Thompson's Hoyas.

Campanelli said his team will try to get the Hoya big men in foul trouble, and work patiently for a high-percentage shot. Steve Blackmon, a 6-foot-4 senior forward from Eastern High, will provide most of the inside muscle along with 6-6 leading scorer Linton Townes, and 6-8 center Dan Ruland, from Annapolis.

The Hoya big men will probably be the least of JMU's worries, however.

Thompson will likely use extensively four guards, including Eric Floyd, who needs only 11 points to become Georgetown's all-time leading scorer. He accounts for about 35 percent of the Hoya offense with his scoring and assists.

When asked after a recent game how he felt about the 6-foot-3 Floyd taking 21 shots, Thompson replied, "Well, our offense is a little lopsided anyway. I hope he'll take 50 if they're good shots." Floyd was on a hot streak last week in the Big East tournament and will not be bashful tonight.

The other guards are Gene Smith, Fred Brown and Eric Smith (the small forward when necessary). Brown, at 6-5, is three inches taller than any Duke guard. He began to use his height and quickness more in Big East competition, with good success.

It's unlikely that the Duke guards have seen any defender as ruthless as Gene Smith, who presses from the opening tip and never seems to tire. "But I'm not sure that pressing is the way to beat us," Campanelli warned.

Seldom will the Hoyas have two big men on the court simultaneously. Ed Spriggs and Milke Frazier will share the center position, and Mike Hancock and Jeff Bullis will split time at power forward.

The key will be Jmu's ability to handle GU's poised and interchangeable guards, not whether Frazier and Spriggs get in foul trouble. But with Frazier having a three-inch height advantage over the tallest Duke, Thompson might decide to try working the ball into his 7-foot senior.