Defending national champion Georgetown will be among eight Division I schools in the Washington area that begin basketball practice Monday, the earliest date for authorized workouts according to NCAA regulations.
Capsule evaluations of each team follow.
Georgetown: Coach John Thompson said he is "extremely impressed" with the attitude of his freshmen, several of whom could see a lot of playing time this winter. "They might be the best group (of freshmen) I've had in a while," he said. "They're mentally tough kids. I haven't received a lot of complaints, moans and groans about 'freshman adjustments.' "
Thompson said Olympian and all-America Patrick Ewing "bugged me to death" about playing with some of the younger players the past few weeks. Thompson, wanting Ewing to take some time away from basketball, said, "I had to tell him I didn't want him playing. Emotionally, I didn't want it to become old hat."
Georgetown will be trying to replace graduated guards Gene Smith and Fred Brown and forward Michael Graham, ineligible this season because of academic problems.
Maryland: Coach Lefty Driesell's primary concern will be determining who will play center, backup center and power forward, positions occupied last year by three fifth-year seniors.
Driesell said he may play Derrick Lewis, a freshman from Carroll High School, as a reserve center. Terry Long, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, will start camp as the No. 1 center, probably, with 6-10 Bryan Palmer as backup.
Otherwise, Maryland is sound with Adrian Branch, Len Bias, Keith Gatlin, Jeff Adkins and experienced reserves Jeff Baxter and Chuck Driesell.
Virginia: The Cavaliers did just fine last year, reaching the Final Four, in their first year without Ralph Sampson. But replacing guards Othell Wilson, Ricky Stokes and Rick Carlisle may be more difficult for Coach Terry Holland.
Senior Tim Mullen, who has played some guard during his career, will see a lot of time at the shooting guard position. John Johnson, a 5-11 point man from Brooklyn, will challenge for time, as will 6-5 freshman Mel Kennedy from Power Memorial High in New York, and Darrick Simms, another guard, from Flint Hill in Fairfax.
Otherwise, Holland has sophomore Olden Polynice back at center, senior Jim Miller back at one forward spot, and either Tom Sheehey or Dan Merrifield at the other.
Navy: Only four lettermen return from the team that won 24 games last year, a record for the service academies. But one of them is sophomore center David Robinson, who has grown three inches to 6-11 and added 30 pounds. He was ECAC rookie of the year last season for averaging 7.6 points and four rebounds a game in just 13 minutes per game of playing time.
Another is forward Vernon Butler, an honorable mention all-America with 15-point, nine-rebound averages last year and leadership qualities now making him Navy's first junior team captain since 1961. Kylor Whitaker, another junior, returns at guard.
But Coach Paul Evans will be looking for at least one more guard to develop in the next six weeks.
George Mason: The top three scorers (Carlos Yates, Ricky Wilson and Rob Rose) are back from last year's 21-7 team, the school's best in Division I. Coach Joe Harrington expects improvement, but is concerned about replacing the two role players who have graduated: point guard John Niehoff and forward Ricky Dillard, the team's best defensive player.
Wilson (19 points a game) moves to point guard and Yates (22) to the other guard. The strength of the team will be experience and depth, as Harrington expects three of his four freshman recruits (6-5 forward Kenny Sanders, 6-4 guard-forward Brian Miller and 5-10 guard Anthony Davis) to play a lot on a much tougher road schedule (Iowa, Alabama-Birmingham, Virginia Commonwealth in December).
As usual, the weakness is inside rebounding. "That's the way it always is at the George Masons and the AUs of the world," Harrington said. Vince McQueen, a 6-7 junior, and Mike Dufrene, a 6-8 sophomore, played frequently as subs last season.
Howard: Coach A.B. Williamson has high expectations for a relatively young team: "I'll be disappointed if we don't win 20 games, but a lot of things have to come into place."
"The key to Howard will be role playing. We don't have a senior on the team. We've got to play like we're on Broadway going for a Tony award."
Williamson started three freshmen (6-8 forward Robert McIlwaine, 6-2 guard Red Hill and 6-2 guard Michael Jones) as the Bison went 15-14 last season. Five other players return, including 6-8 center Derek Caracciolo and 6-2 guard George Hamilton.
Williamson also thinks he had a top recruiting year, including forward/guard Michael Hampton, a 6-5 junior college transfer from Chicago to whom the Bison will look for scoring, and 6-2 guard Paris Dennis, who will contest Hill to start at the point.
The key, according to Williamson, is the development of 6-8, 230-pound junior Robert Jones, who hasn't been able to keep out of foul problems for two seasons. "If he has a great year, there's no telling how far we'll go," Williamson said.
American: It's another rebuilding year for the Eagles, coming off a 6-22 showing in Ed Tapscott's first season. He was an assistant as the Eagles won 24, 21 and 20 games the three previous seasons. The turnover is accentuated by the fact only three current Eagles played on the 1982-83 team.
The Eagles, who have moved from the East Coast Conference to the ECAC South, have one of their deepest back courts in recent years. Part of their success will depend on how quickly Mike Sampson, a freshman from Carroll, can fit in at point guard and free 6-2 Frank Ross (11.1 points, 3.9 assists per game) from ball-handling responsibilities. Another strong recruit is 6-2 guard Charles West from Central High School, co-player of the year in Prince George's County.
But the Eagles have no proven inside players. Center Henry Hopkins started 26 games as a freshman, averaging 2.3 points and 3.5 rebounds.
George Washington: First the bad news: Max Blank, the 6-9 Soviet immigrant recruit (25 points and 16 rebounds a game at George Washington High School in Philadelphia), has not fully recovered from offseason knee surgery, and Coach Gerry Gimelstob is uncertain about his status.
Also, sophomore forward Tim Dawson, last season's sixth man, will sit out the 1984-85 season to concentrate on academics, and freshman forward Terry Silas already has quit school.
Otherwise, there is much good news in Foggy Bottom, where the Colonials will play host to intersectional opponents including Kansas and Michigan State. Center Mike Brown (19 points per game, 12 rebounds per game, who played in the Olympic trials, returns for a senior season in which GW is looking for its first NCAA bid since 1961. Also back are all but one other key player (guard Dave Hobel) from last year's 17-12 team. Still, 6-4 guard Troy Webster, 6-6 forward Darryl Webster, 6-4 forward Chester Wood and 6-6 forward Craig Helms are only juniors. Point guard Mike O'Reilly, a 5-11 junior, returns after missing much of last season with a broken jaw.
Based on Blank's availability, GW is considered a cofavorite with Temple for the Atlantic 10 championship.