Virginia and Georgetown, the two top-ranked college basketball teams in the nation, open their seasons tonight against lightly regarded non-Division I opponents.
No. 1 Virginia plays Johns Hopkins at 7 in the opening game of the United Bank-Virginia Invitational at University Hall in Charlottesville. George Mason plays Virginia Commonwealth at 9, and the winners play Saturday night at 9 for the championship.
Georgetown is on a two-game trip to Hawaii for games that count in the Hoyas' record, but not against the 28-game regular-season limit. Tonight's opponent is Brigham Young University-Hawaii at 12:30 a.m. Saturday Washington time. Games in Hawaii and Alaska do not count in the 28-game limit. The Hoyas opened the last two seasons in the Great Alaska Shootout at Anchorage.
The University of the District of Columbia, defending Division II champion and top-ranked in preseason polls in that division, is in for more of a challenge, playing California (Pa.) State in the first round of the UDC Tipoff Tournament on the Van Ness campus.
In another game involving an area Division I team, Navy plays host to Washington and Jefferson, a Division III opponent, at 7:30 in Halsey Field House.
While Virginia, Georgetown and Navy are expected to win easily, UDC can expect trouble from an opponent with which it split regular-season games with last season. UDC won by 21 at home and lost to California State by one point on the road. California State returns all of its key players from last year, but may be weakened because of injuries.
"I'm looking to see if we can play well with all this anxiousness and anticipation," said UDC Coach Wil Jones. "I want to establish a (starting) group. The players' attitudes have been superb.
"But with all this talk about defending the national championship, I don't want them to come out and try to show how awesome they are."
In the Cavalier Classic, George Mason Coach Joe Harrington will find out how much he can count on freshmen Ricky Wilson, Rob Rose, Dwayne Grace and Vince McQueen. Mason beat Commonwealth by 13 points last year, but the Patriots may find it difficult to replace center Andre Gaddy. They also are playing the first five games with 6-8 Mike Shannon academically ineligible.
Fans at the game with Washington and Jefferson will see a Navy team improved by the addition of Vernon Butler, a 6-7 forward from High Point who has been impressive in preseason scrimmages.
Butler's play around the basket should complement the perimeter play of guards David Brooks and Rob Romaine, offensively and defensively.
Maryland opens its season Saturday night against Penn State in the Baltimore Civic Center and George Washington plays Towson State at the Smith Center. American University and Howard open their seasons Monday night.