Now that the Georgetown winning streak has reached 25 games, including 14 this season, the word undefeated is becoming more than just a whisper. In today's game at the Philadelphia Spectrum (2:30 p.m., WRC-TV-4), 16th-ranked Villanova will be attempting to do something that hasn't been done in nearly a year: defeat Georgetown.
The longer this goes on, the closer the sporting world will watch. No Division I basketball team has gone through an entire season undefeated since Bob Knight's 1976 Indiana team.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson, asked if an unbeaten season means anything to him, said this week, "I haven't given a lot of thought to that. My biggest concern is that there are aspects of the game that we're not playing as well as we want to play. If we can become a better team and go on to be undefeated, then fine. But if in the process of developing our team, we lose a game or two, that's not going to bother me. It won't bother me at all.
"What do you get for going undefeated anyway, unless you go undefeated all the way until the very end? In the regular season, De Paul has done that, haven't they? You have to be very careful talking about going undefeated. Anyway, we have to play a lot better than we're playing now to go undefeated. We're not playing badly. But I don't think we're executing offensively or defensively yet, to the point we might be later on."
Thompson then laughed and said, "I've never coached an undefeated team, in high school or here at Georgetown, and I don't think I've been hurt too badly by it."
Georgetown's last defeat came on Feb. 21, 1984, to St. John's, 75-71, at Capital Centre. The Hoyas have had two overtime games in the Big East since then, including one last Saturday, an 82-80 defeat of visiting Boston College. And many would find it hard to conceive of Georgetown going undefeated through an entire season playing in a league that this week placed five teams in the top 16.
P.J. Carlesimo, coach of Seton Hall -- Georgetown's most recent victim -- said this week, "Everybody in the league is still feeling out each other. As dominant as Georgetown has been, people are still waiting to see what happens when they play a couple more of the league's premier teams. Georgetown is certainly capable of going undefeated.
"But I think there are too many good teams -- actually great teams -- in the league for anybody to go undefeated. If anybody can, it would be Georgetown. But I would think it would be impossible not to slip up at least once," Carlesimo said.
Georgetown (14-0, 3-0 in the Big East) certainly can't slip much today and expect to win. The Wildcats (9-2, 2-1) lost Monday night at St. John's, but they led much of the game and the Redmen played their best game of the year.
Besides, forward Ed Pinckney has had a couple of his best games against Georgetown and seems to get more excited about playing Patrick Ewing than anybody in the Big East except Syracuse's Dwayne (Pearl) Washington. Villanova's starting five -- Pinckney, forwards Harold Pressley and Dwayne McClain, and guards Gary McClain and Dwight Wilbur -- are experienced at playing Georgetown.
The Hoyas' only other road game in a difficult arena was at New Mexico, and Georgetown won by eight after having a big lead cut to three in the second half. Villanova, it would seem, won't have the home court advantage it would enjoy at the Palestra. But an expected crowd of 15,000 or more at the Spectrum won't hurt.
In other games today involving area teams, George Washington also will be in Philadelphia as it plays Temple, North Carolina visits Virginia, James Madison plays at Navy, Howard visits North Carolina A&T, George Mason is at home against Radford and UDC travels to Ohio to play Central State.
North Carolina, ranked No. 5 in the nation, is playing the kind of game many teams in the country -- even some very good ones -- would lose. The Tar Heels face Virginia two days after their victory over Maryland and 24 hours before their nationally televised nonconference game against fourth-ranked Southern Methodist in Greensboro, N.C.
A lot of teams might have emotional letdowns, but that's doubtful in the case of North Carolina, which is getting strong inside play from Brad Daugherty, Joe Wolf and Dave Popson and occasional good play from Warren Martin.
The Cavaliers aren't desperate, but they've lost three straight Atlantic Coast Conference games, and few teams recover from losing the first four.
Virginia needs forward Tom Sheehey to play better. Tim Mullen, who may miss the game because of an injury, has not played particularly well. Replacing Mullen, 5-foot-11 John Johnson may be just the spark the Cavaliers need. Virginia needs to find some help, quickly, for center Olden Polynice.
George Washington has remained very competitive with its leading scorer and rebounder, Mike Brown, hurting. But the Colonials need him at full strength if they expect to control Temple's Granger Hall and keep the Owls from opening a two-game lead over GW in the Atlantic 10.
Those who keep waiting for Navy's 6-11 center, David Robinson, to level off may be waiting in vain. Robinson, still averaging more than 25 points per game, combines with 6-7 Vernon Butler to give the Midshipmen the kind of inside power that should be able to overtake James Madison, which is coming off an upset over Old Dominion.