College basketball has become a game of upsets recently, and no team in the nation has been immune, with the possible exception of Georgetown.
Over the last two years, the Hoyas have not been truly upset by any significantly weaker team, which is not lost on Connecticut Coach Dom Perno as he prepares his Huskies for an opening-round game of the Big East tournament against No. 1 GU here in Madison Square Garden on Thursday afternoon.
"This is a crazy, crazy game," Perno said today, "and you never know what might happen on a given day against anybody. But Georgetown, well, it's tough to spring a trap on Georgetown because they so consistently play good defense, hard defense. And at least from what I've seen, they don't ever have an offnight on defense."
Connecticut has been the surprise team of the year in the Big East. The Huskies were picked by most people to finish last in the league but wound up with a 6-10 conference record, 13-14 overall. They finished only one game behind Boston College, which at times was ranked in the nation's top 20.
But a season-ending loss to Seton Hall Saturday guaranteed the Huskies seventh place and the unenviable task of meeting Georgetown, which has won nine straight and is seeded second in the tournament, behind St. John's.
Perno was asked what he could tell his team, having lost twice to GU by an average of 17 points.
"What I've tried to do is be realistic," he said. "We're playing the best team in the country; we're not intimidated by them, but we know they're good and we're giving them that respect. They've been incredible over the last three weeks. They're banging, they're active, the big guy (Patrick Ewing) is playing the best he's ever played. They don't have just one guy. Reggie Williams is having a hell of a year. People say they miss Michael Graham, but Bill Martin does what he's supposed to do as well as anybody. They have an awful lot of answers."
Connecticut's only answer is to have at least five men playing as well as they can for about 30 minutes each. The Huskies played the Hoyas a very tight game back in January at Capital Centre.
"If all of our kids play well, then we have a chance," Perno said. "If one or two of our guys is off, then we don't have enough answers. But anybody who plays Georgetown could say that."
Connecticut's most important players are guard Earl Kelley, who averages 17 points, and Ray Broxton, a 6-foot-7 forward who will have to complement Kelley's outside shooting with inside scoring and rebounding.
In Georgetown's 21-point victory over Connecticut less than two weeks ago, Broxton made only three of 11 shots and had only four rebounds. Kelley had 16 points, but didn't score in the first half.
"We've got to get a full game from Kelley and have Broxton play better," Perno said.
What could also help the Huskies is the return of 6-7 swing man Eddie Williams, who missed 17 games because of injury. They might have made an even stronger impact on the league if Williams, who averaged 13 points last year as a sophomore, had been healthy all season.
"It's going to take a near-perfect game for somebody to beat Georgetown, they way they've been playing," Broxton said after the Hoyas' victory Feb. 23. Georgetown has continued to play that way, and now Connecticut has two more days to come up with the perfect game for such an upset. Hoyas No. 1 Again
Georgetown (27-2) regained the top spot yesterday in the Associated Press and United Press International college basketball polls despite finishing second in the Big East Conference regular season.
St. John's, which had held the No. 1 spot for the last five weeks, fell to second in both polls after losing to the Hoyas, 85-69, last week.