There is neon everywhere. The Georgetown Hoyas are 6-0 and ranked third in the nation. Patrick Ewing and Bill Martin play like awe-Americans. The freshmen guards continue to age at the same speed they run the offense, which is quickly. Ralph Sampson arrives Saturday night.
Now, then, which way to proper perspective?
"It's a December satisfaction," says Georgetown Coach John Thompson, "where the satisfaction comes from knowing the imperfections."
Sometimes a record of perfection, like 6-0, hides imperfections. But you know John Thompson. He always quarantines optimism.
The Hoyas' season is only 15 days old. Mostly, though, it has been 15 days of momentum. "There is just an air about Georgetown," said Dave Magarity, St. Francis (Pa.) College coach. "It's hard to describe."
One accurate description is a lap around the Hoyas' victory circle: Brigham Young-Hawaii (72-52), Hawaii-Hilo (67-37), Morgan State (91-57), St. Francis (Pa.) College (75-40), Western Kentucky (70-66 in overtime) and Alabama State (99-76).
And on the Hoya horizon -- well beyond the winning, the ranking and the running -- is Ewing. The 7-foot sophomore center averages 13.8 points, 9.2 rebounds per game. One opposing coach said Ewing is the best since Bill Russell and his defense. Another opposing coach said he's the best since Dr. James Naismith and his peach baskets.
"Patrick does so much that's not even in the statistics," says Gene Smith, Georgetown's junior guard. "To be successful, we have to get the ball to Patrick. By the same token, he doesn't have to score 50 points."
"There is always a tendency to depend on Patrick," Thompson has said. "Of course, it would be stupidity not to depend on him."
There is also Martin's continued power play. The 6-7 sophomore forward scored 30 points (13 for 17 from the field) in the victory over Alabama State Wednesday night at Capital Centre. He is averaging 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds.
"I feel more comfortable," Martin says.
"Billy is starting to get loose," says Thompson.
And, most definitively, there is the fast breaking. Ewing rebounds, throws an outlet pass to David Wingate, Michael Jackson or Horace Broadnax -- the three freshmen guards -- who take it to the middle, then take it to the hoop.
"That's our game," Martin says. "We're looking to run."
"The circumstances," junior guard Fred Brown says, "have turned our games into full-court games."
"The first 10 games of the year," Thompson says, "you just let it go. If you are afraid to run and make turnovers in December, you will be sloppy when you try to play orderly in March."
Beneath the flashing neon, however, there are legitimate Georgetown worries. Sophomore Ralph Dalton, the 6-10 center, has been more mobile each game, but worry remains over whether his knee will ever stop causing him pain and stop causing him to run with such a drastic limp.
Then there is the worry over the tendinitis that keeps Brown's right knee in pain and in ice. After his first appearance of the season in the first half against Alabama State, one filled with chants of "Freddie! Freddie!," Brown sat on the bench for the rest of the game, ice packs around his knee.
He only played two minutes.
"It might be a while before I'm ready," Brown said. He looked dejected when he said it. And Freddie Brown rarely looks dejected. At a press conference yesterday, Thompson said that Brown's knee is too sore for him to play against Virginia.
And, even though Wingate (12.5 points per game), Jackson (9.8) and Broadnax (eight) are talented, they are freshmen. Better than most freshmen, mind you, but freshmen nonetheless.
"I'm not ready to say 'Hallelujah, the saviors are here,' " Thompson says. "I see improvement in them, but I also see them do things that remind me they are freshmen."
Then, there is the matter of the Hoyas' press offense. Alabama State was the first team with the ability to press against Georgetown. Duly challenged, the Hoyas' freshmen guards stopped running the fast break and started running into difficulty.
"We need to work on it," Thompson said.
Further, holes were exposed in the Hoyas' defense by Alabama State. These holes measured 76 points wide, the most points Georgetown has permitted this season.
For much of the game, the Hoyas used what they call their "55" defense, a full-court defense with pressing, trapping and the like.
And herein lies the problem. "We're just not getting back on defense," sophomore forward Anthony Jones says. "Right now, we're thinking about things, not letting them come naturally."
There is also the pressing matter of playing No. 1 Virginia Saturday night.
"The Big Blowup," Brown calls it.
"Something I want to get over with," Anthony Jones says.
"The pure significance of the game," Thompson says, "is really insignificant."
But Thompson adds, "I'd be a little naive if I said it was 'just another game.' You have to be aware of the outside factors. It will be a real test for our young players."