College basketball, basically a road show so far this season, comes home this weekend with Maryland playing a tough home opener, rivals George Washington and American facing each other and defending national champion Georgetown starting its home schedule with a pushover.
The team with the toughest game, however, is the one going on the road. George Mason (2-0), which last year upset Northwestern, moves up another notch in the Big Ten, traveling to Iowa for a game this afternoon that matches two of Lefty Driesell's former assistant coaches at Maryland: Joe Harrington of the Patriots and George Raveling of Iowa.
Mason was 21-7 a year ago but ignored by the postseason tournaments, largely because its schedule wasn't considered tough enough. An upset victory at Iowa would go a long way towards dispelling the notion that GMU is just a nice little team that beats up on littler teams.
Georgetown, 2-0 after easy victories over overmatched Hawaii-Hilo and Hawaii-Loa, is a very big team with yet another pushover game against Southern Connecticut, a team that lost its opener to Division II American International earlier this week. Coach John Thompson, who always has maintained his scheduling philosophy is no one else's business, said yesterday that the trip to Hawaii helped his team.
"I think we learned a lot out there," he said. "We got to see what people could do in different situations. I'm trying right now to find a group of eight or a group of seven that will play regularly. The trip was helpful in that sense, too."
One who will certainly be part of the regular rotation who has not played yet and is unlikely to play today is 6-foot-7 sophomore swing man Reggie Williams. Williams, the star of the national championship game last season, has been bothered by soreness in his right shoulder and is being brought along slowly. He almost surely will be back a week from today when the Hoyas play their first Divison I opponent, Nevada-Las Vegas.
One hour before the 2 p.m. start at Capital Centre, a film of last year's championship season will be shown, the team will be presented with medals from the city and the national championship banner will be unfurled.
American and George Washington, local rivals who have managed to keep personalities and politics from ending their traditionial series, face off today at 5 p.m. at GW's Smith Center. Each easily won pushover opening games earlier in the week.
The Colonials should be a top-heavy favorite. GW is one of the favorites for the Atlantic 10 title with 6-10 Mike Brown at center and a solid, deep team to go with him. AU, by contrast, is coming off a 6-22 season and is going to give a lot of playing time to a lot of freshmen.
But history dictates that one ignores logic in this game. Two years ago, AU was coming off one of its greatest upsets, a victory over Georgetown, when it played an inexperienced GW team. The Colonials won in overtime. Last year, the Eagles were going through a horrendous season when GW came to Fort Meyer. They stunned the Colonials, 71-63.
If American is to pull an upset of similar proportions today, it would have to do so with quickness and full-court pressure. George Washington is big and methodical, AU small and quick. A half-court game will make GW Coach Gerry Gimelstob very happy. American Coach Ed Tapscott wants it up-tempo with lots of turnovers.
Shortly after Gimelstob and Tapscott exchange their postgame handshake, Maryland and West Virginia will meet at 8 in Cole Field House.
Driesell's coaching opponent is another of his former assistants, Gale Catlett. Last season when these teams met in the second round of the NCAA tournament, teacher dominated pupil, 102-77. Thursday, Driesell tried hard to make it sound like that game was competitive but stumbled over his words, saying, "When I looked at the film, the game really wasn't as close as the score indicated."
Driesell cleared his bench with seven minutes left and his subs were too good for the Mountaineers. This year's Maryland team (2-1) is not as big or as experienced. Although Len Bias, who scored 64 points in the three-game Great Alaska Shootout, and Adrian Branch (49 points) are proven scorers, the Terrapins are small in the middle and must get more scoring from the back court.
Driesell will continue to start 6-8 sophomore Terry Long at center although it is becoming increasingly apparent that 6-7 Derrick Lewis is going to get most of the minutes at that spot. "The best thing about Alaska was the way Derrick played," Driesell said. "He's surprised us with how good a rebounder (23 in 85 minutes) he is and he's really a good shot blocker."
Driesell thinks Long (seven points, 11 rebounds in 69 minutes) is trying too hard, but, nonetheless, will continue to start him, "because if I start Derrick, he's just a freshman and he might get uptight."
The Mountaineers have one very good player in 6-4 Lester Rowe. Dale Blaney, a 6-4 guard, is a good shooter, but not nearly as good a player as his press clippings (he was preseason all-Atlantic 10). As long as Maryland doesn't get beat up on the boards -- and it shouldn't -- it should control the game, although it should not be as one-sided as the tournament game.
Virginia, after going 1-1 on its 12,000-mile trip to Hawaii, could have a tough game tonight at 9 in the final of its annual tipoff tournament. The Cavaliers beat lightweight Loyola (Balt.), 72-60, last night; if Richmond beats Division II Tampa in the opening round, their meeting in University Hall for the championship should provide a very competitive intrastate game.