American University, coming off its best basketball season ever, and George Washingon, hoping to rebound from its worst in 13 years, will open their seasons, both at home, tonight.

The Colonials, a woeful 8-19 last year, will begin to find out if their exausting preseason revamping under new Coach Gerry Gimelstob will result in dividends when they play meet Catholic at the Smith Center at 8 p.m.

American, minus graduated all-everything Boo Bowers and point guard Robin Hoey, will try to make Whittier College victim No. 1 at Fort Myer, also at 8.

Once again, the Eagles will rely on the fast break and full-court press that resulted in a 24-6 record and an NIT berth last year. Point guard Gordon Austin, who played well during the second half of last season, will direct the team. All-ECC 6-foot-5 guard/forward Mark Nickens, 6-3 guard Ed Sloane and 6-6 center Juan Jones will start with either 6-8 transfer Andre Adams or 6-7 sophomore Fernando Aunon at the other forward.

The Eagles will enjoy a height advantage over the Division III Poets, whose tallest starter is 6-6 Jeff Weaver. Whittier (2-1) was handled easily by Madison Saturday night, 77-54.

George Washington should be much more physical up front with 6-9 senior Penny Elliott and freshman Mike Brown. Oscar Wilmington, who at 6-3 jumps like he is 6-9, has a bruised elbow and may see limited duty. The back court of Wilbert Skipper and transfer Dave Hobel can score. The Colonials will be better defensively, mainly because Gimelstob has emphasized that phase of the game.

"The kids have been tremendously receptive to what we've tried to do," said Gimelstob, who held a five-hour practice Saturday night.

"We're very anxious to play and see what kind of team we'll have. We worked extra time Saturday to work some things we need to improve on."

Catholic, now a Division III school, has lost nine straight to GW, but has played well in splitting four games thus far. Returnees Darren Heath, Chuck Oswald and Marty Favret are the nucleus of the Cardinals. Catholic easily defeated Delaware Valley, 98-75, Saturday night.