George Washington will play Duquesne tonight at 8 o'clock at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena in a first-round game of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.

There are dark clouds on the GW horizon, though. Freshman guard Troy Webster, bothered by spasms in his lower back, might not play.

"Right now, he's out. We'll have to wait and see," Coach Gerry Gimelstob said yesterday. Webster averages a team-high 17 points per game, and likely will be voted the Atlantic 10 rookie of the year. His talents are vital to the Colonials.

"We are not a one-man team, though," said Gimelstob. GW is 13-14 overall, a fifth-place 4-10 in the Atlantic-10 West Division after a 68-62 victory over fourth-place Duquesne (12-15, 6-8) at Smith Center Saturday. Webster did not play.

"I think that win helps us a great deal. It gives us confidence and it has to put some doubt in Duquesne's mind," Gimelstob said. "Ron White came in (replacing Webster) and did a great job. We got a real nice boost with Craig Helms playing (he's been injured), and Darryl Webster played his best game in a month."

The winner will advance to the quarterfinals and play first-place St. Bonaventure (19-8) Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.

Meanwhile, No. 16 Georgetown (20-8, 10-5 in the Big East Conference) will play No. 18 Syracuse (19-7, 9-6) tonight at 8 in the final conference regular-season game. It's a makeup of the Feb. 12 game that was snowed out.

The Hoyas are rejuvenated after their 87-71 victory over No. 4 Villanova Saturday. Their full-court press and half-court zone defenses caused Villanova turnovers, which turned into Georgetown fast breaks, which turned into a 21-point Georgetown lead midway through the second half.

"I feel very good about this win. We needed one win like this. Right at this time, it's extremely important to us," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson. "But we still have one hell of a road ahead of us."

Even after the blowout victory, Thompson said, "I personally think that Villanova is a better team than we are . . . I still think that they, probably along with St. John's, are the best two teams in the Big East."

Georgetown junior guard Fred Brown, who has not played in nearly a month becuse of a strained patella tendon in his right knee, says he continues to exercise.

"The guys know that they are on their own now," Brown said. "They can't be worrying about me. I'm not sure when I'll be back."

The Hoyas will open play in the Big East tournament against Syracuse Thursday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in a game between the fourth and fifth-place teams.

American University and Howard take opposite routes, the first taking a road filled with promise, the latter taking a road that turned into a dead end Saturday night.

First, the Bison: Howard lost to North Carolina A&T, 71-64, in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament final that earned the Aggies a bid in the NCAA tournament. Howard's season, which included the MEAC regular-season title, stands at 19-9. The National Invitation Tournament is a possibility.

The Eagles have an opportunity to hop on the yellow brick road. AU (18-9) finished at 7-2 in the East Coast Conference East Division, tying Hofstra and La Salle. But the Eagles earned the No. 1 seed by virtue of their record in head-to-head competition with the other two teams.

Consequently, the veteran Eagles, who follow the talents of seniors Mark Nickens, Gordon Austin and Juan Jones, earned a bye. Wednesday night, AU will host the winner of tonight's Lehigh-Lafayette game.

UDC will host the Division II South Atlantic regional semifinals Thursday and will play Randolph-Macon at 6 p.m. Hampton will meet St. Augustine at 8. The championship will be Saturday at 8.