There's really no logical reason for thinking that Georgetown will have any great difficulty beating Loyola of Chicago Thursday night in an NCAA East Regional semifinal.
After all, Georgetown has won 14 consecutive games, 13 straight postseason games, and has seemed invincible for nearly two months now. And when the Hoyas (32-2) take the Civic Center court at approximately 9 p.m., they'll tower over the Ramblers, whose starters stand an average of less than 6 feet 4.
But the Ramblers are approaching this game as if they had three 7-footers. Maybe it's that cockiness, in addition to a 19-game winning streak -- the nation's longest -- that has some believing that Loyola (27-5) poses a legitimate threat to the tournament's No. 1 seed.
"We're not afraid of Georgetown, we're looking to mix it up with them," Carl Golston, a 5-9 guard, said today after practice.
The Ramblers were careful to point out that Georgetown's way of intimidating won't affect them.
"We're coming in feeling we can beat them," forward Alfredrick Hughes said. "We know Georgetown and Pat Ewing are tough, but being city kids (all the starters are from the inner city of Chicago), we aren't going to take any flack from him."
Being confident against Georgetown is important. The Ramblers certainly appear to be that, judging by some of the talk that's come out of Chicago this week.
But hitting a high percentage of jump shots would be even more important, considering the Ramblers won't have much of an inside game against the Hoyas, and aren't going to knock the world dead with their team defense.
Loyola relies heavily -- against bigger teams, almost solely -- on the jump shot. Center Andre Moore, at 6-9, is the only starter taller than 6-5. And although he averages 11 points and 10 rebounds per game, nobody will confuse Moore with Ewing, the 7-foot all-America center.
The Ramblers are shooters, often from long range. They will have to rely on 6-4 Hughes, the nation's second-leading scorer at nearly 27 points per game; 6-3 Andre Battle, who averages 21 per game, and point guard Golston, who led the nation in assists and scored 15 per game.
Loyola shot poorly in victories over Iona and Southern Methodist in its first two games of the regional last week. Golston said today, "If we can shoot between 55 and 60 percent, then we have a great chance. But if they hold us to that 39 percent they've been holding most teams to, we'll be in trouble."
Point guard Michael Jackson talked about the trouble his Georgetown team could have in stopping one with so many shooters. "In a full-court game, we have to pick them up quickly," he said. "We can't go back and set up the defense, though, because they'll take one dribble past half court and you never know who's gonna shoot, or from where."
Georgetown Coach John Thompson said, "I notice Loyola gets quite a bit of offensive rebounds. They're strong. You don't pity anybody's height or size when you get to the final 16. They have to do more than shoot the ball; you don't get to the final 16 by just putting it up."
The Ramblers aren't exactly run-and-gun. But when Golston was asked what would happen if Hughes (who scored 47 points in one game this season), were shooting well, he said, "If Rick gets hot, we'll get him 30 to 40 shots."
Georgetown almost certainly will go about its usual game, although it will be interesting to see just how far the Hoyas will extend their defenses should the Ramblers hit a few deep jumpers early.
The very styles of these teams provide an interesting contrast. Loyola and Georgetown are direct opposites. The Hoyas are primarily a defensive team, concentrating first on stopping the opposition. Offensively, they work traditionally, from the perimeter in.
Loyola works from a double-stack offense, popping shooters off the stack for perimeter jumpers. Coach Gene Sullivan says that what any coach does on the bench is vastly overrated. "I don't worry about what shots Rick takes," he said. "I turn the game over to the kids."
Thompson, on the other hand, consults with at least his point guard on almost every dead-ball situation. The comparison extends through other areas, certainly to the extreme privacy Georgetown prefers, to the open, public manner of Loyola. "We love every bit of this publicity," Golston said.
It might be shortlived. Georgetown has made very few major mistakes lately and hasn't played a close game in weeks. Not surprisingly, Golston feels the Hoyas have a weak spot.
"We don't think Georgetown is a great offensive team," he said. "They shoot 51 percent as a team, even with a 7-footer. We shoot 50 percent without one. If we had Pat Ewing, we'd shoot 65 percent, at least.
Having said that, Golston added that while he's not in awe of the Hoyas, he does respect them. "They're a great team," he said. "I'm usually a big Georgetown fan, but I have to be their enemy tomorrow. We're gonna scrap to the end . . . "
One has to wonder how different Georgetown would be if it had decided to hire Sullivan on either of two occasions he interviewed for the coaching position. He said today he thought he would be hired in 1963, but that Red Auerbach said it would be a disaster if a coach from the East wasn't hired.
So Georgetown passed over Sullivan for Jack Magee. In 1972, after Magee left and the job opened again, Sullivan said he was leaving an interview when Thompson walked in for his session.
"Obviously," Sullivan said, "they hired the right man for the job."