Most local teams open the college basketball season today, with expectations that range from fair to middling to national championship.
At Maryland, the Terrapins will be looking to see what sort of hopes it should pin on all-America forward Len Bias after he goes against Northeastern tonight at 8 at Cole Field House. Georgetown has three potential all-Americas returning and none of them is Patrick Ewing, but the Hoyas shouldn't lose a step from last year's runner-up team for the national title. They will be at Hawaii-Loa, which should be a nice spot to open the season, although the tipoff is 1 a.m. EST.
One of the most intriguing games promises to be at Capital Centre, where Virginia opens against Houston at 1. It will be a rematch of their 1984 Final Four meeting, which Houston won, 49-47.
Maryland may wish it had a slightly easier opponent than Northeastern to open against, particularly with some of the questions that remain unanswered. The two most important are whether the Terrapins can keep teams from ganging up on Bias, and whether junior Terry Long will prove adequate at center, where he averaged 2.3 points per game in spot appearances last season.
Everyone knows about Bias, who led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring (19 points) last year. He would appear to be the Terrapins' only sure offensive weapon and if someone doesn't emerge to take over some of the scoring load, it could be disastrous in the ACC, where they are picked to finish fifth.
However, everyone also knows that the Terrapins do their best work when they don't seem to have much. Sports Illustrated and Street and Smith like them well enough to rank them 14th in the country; the Associated Press says 19th.
"There were times this fall I said that this was the sorriest team I've ever had at Maryland," Coach Charles G. Driesell said. "I was pessimistic. But I've been encouraged. We've been to the NCAA or NIT tournaments 13 of the last 14 years and I don't think this will be the first one not to be invited."
To pump the Terrapins up, Driesell screened the film of "Patton" and has taken to calling himself "the General." Scoring can come from guards Keith Gatlin (8.3 points) and Jeff Baxter and forward Derrick Lewis (6.0 points), who with Long make up the starting lineup, and Speedy Jones (7.1 points) first off the bench.
"I hope they do gang up on Len," Driesell said. "They'll find out Speedy, Gatlin and Baxter can score. I hope Len is smart enough to know, and I think he is, that he can't try to force it if he does get ganged up on. He can't panic."
Northeastern is not a team to be trifled with. The Huskies have been to the NCAA tournament two straight years thanks to one of the most exciting offensive threats around in Reggie Lewis, the 6-foot-7 junior forward out of Baltimore's Dunbar High School.
Lewis was the highest-scoring sophomore in the country last year, averaging 24.1 points.
Capital Centre will be the site of a grudge match when Virginia meets Houston. The Cougars won the last two meetings, both in the 1984 regular season and then in the tournament thriller that ended the Cavaliers' run in the year after Ralph Sampson.
This year both teams are coming back from relative mediocrity; the Cavaliers went 17-16 last season and made it to the quarterfinals of the NIT, Houston finished 16-14. Virginia is seeking a perimeter game to accompany 6-11 center Olden Polynice (13.0 points), while Houston has some established scorers in 6-8 forward Rickie Winslow (14.2 points) and 6-2 guard Alvin Franklin (16.9 points).
At Hawaii-Loa, the matchup appears a little more uneven. The Hoyas won a rout in Hawaii last year, 74-45, and this year's game promises more of the same. Hawaii-Loa was 4-25 last season and the leading returning scorer is 6-10 center Derrick Dell, averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds, but he probably won't be too effective against potential all-Americas Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Michael Jackson.
In other games, George Mason opens at Central Florida and George Washington hosts Montclair State.
Mason is coming off an 18-11 season but will be without Carlos Yates, its top scorer for four years. Four other seniors are returning, however, including 6-6 Rob Rose, who was second in scoring last year, averaging 14.8 points.
George Washington has a truckload of experience in seven seniors, and should improve over last year's 14-14 record. The game marks the debut of Coach John Kuester, the former Boston University coach. Washington Bible 68, Columbia Union 65:
Ed Fontaine scored 22 points, among them a tap-in after a missed free throw which gave his team a three-point lead with one minute left, as the Lanham school won in the first round of the Wagner Classic at Washington Bible. Bible is 1-2 and Union is 0-2. Eastern Mennonite 84, Gallaudet 57:
Bryan Martin and Fred Crawford had 19 points each and Leonard Dow had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Royals in Harrisonburg, Va. David Hamilton led the Bison with 20 points and nine rebounds. Liberty 64, Bowie State 61:
Andre McIntyre scored 14 points and sank one of two free throws with seven seconds left to insure the Flames victory in the opening round of the Liberty Mountain Classic Tipoff Tournament in Lynchburg. Scott Norman scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half for the Bulldogs. It was the season opener for both teams.