Georgetown and Virginia begin their efforts to return to the Final Four Thursday as each plays its first-round game in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Georgetown (23-7), which went to the Final Four the past two years, will be in Dayton, Ohio, to play Texas Tech in the Midwest Regional at 7:07 p.m. The Red Raiders (17-13) were a less-than-sterling 9-7 this year in a weak Southwest Conference but won the conference tournament.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson said he had seen film of some of Texas Tech's previous games. "They protect the ball very well," he said. "They can run the fast break when they have the opportunity, but one of their main strengths is the ability to move the ball and work it inside patiently."
The Red Raiders have won six in a row, including three in their conference tournament. Tony Benford, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, is Texas Tech's leading scorer, averaging 14.3 points per game. The Red Raiders' tallest starter is 6-9 senior Ray Irvin, who leads the team in rebounding with a mere 4.6 per game.
De Paul will be Virginia's opponent in the East Regional at 9:37 p.m. at Greensboro Coliseum. Coach Terry Holland's team is coming off a 75-70 loss to top-ranked Duke in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, which also was held here.
"We're looking at it as a positive thing," said Holland, whose last trip to the Final Four was in 1984. "I thought we played well in the tournament and we gave it our best shot. If we can say that tomorrow night, I'll be happy."
The Cavaliers might not have the services of reserve center John Dyslin, who suffered a broken nose Tuesday during an altercation at practice with teammate Olden Polynice. "I let my emotions get the best of me," Polynice said today.
In other games, Kansas (31-3), the top seed in the Midwest, plays at 2:37 in Dayton against North Carolina A&T, which denied Howard a spot in the tournament. Georgia Tech, the second seed in the Southeast, meets Marist at 1:07 p.m. in Baton Rouge, La. Virginia Tech (22-8) then takes on defending national champion Villanova (22-13). In the West, third-seeded North Carolina plays its first-round game at 11:41 p.m. in Ogden, Utah, against Utah.
Duke (32-2) will be the first out of the blocks in Greensboro when it takes on Mississippi Valley State (20-10) at 12:07 p.m. Thursday.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski held a short practice in Durham, unlike all the other teams that practiced in Greensboro Coliseum, where Duke won the ACC tournament Sunday.
"We didn't practice here because we just got through playing here," Krzyzewski said. "We decided to give them a half day more of school. We had a short practice, but with the early game, we didn't go that hard. We're still recovering from the weekend. It was three tough games.
"I don't know if we're the best, but we earned this spot [No. 1 seed in the East]. It helped not having to travel real far. We're a lot fresher than we'd be if we played in the Midwest or West."
Krzyzewski went through the routine of saying Mississippi Valley State could give his Blue Devils some trouble.
"I saw them on video tape, and I was impressed with their transition, and one of the problems we've had this year is not getting back quick enough on defense. Usually we're quicker in the back court, but we won't be a lot quicker tomorrow."
Mississippi Valley's starting front line goes 6-7, 6-5 and 6-3.
This is the first year the 45-second clock will be used in the tournament. Mississippi Valley State Coach Lafayette Stribling scoffed at the suggestion that his team might want to slow things down. Krzyzewski said he welcomes the clock.
"We're the type of team that it's difficult to slow it completely down against, because we put on good defensive pressure," Krzyzewski said.
Their maturity has helped the Blue Devils avoid playing any really bad games. Does Krzyzewski worry that one might yet appear?
"I don't believe in the law of averages," he said. "With the maturity, I expect a consistent effort . . . and our team is fresher than it's been at this time for the last couple years. I don't expect us to play poorly. I'm not saying it will be easy, but if we lose I think it will be because somebody beat us. That's the approach we've had all year and we've been consistent, and we've tried to have fun. We haven't been a nervous team. We're fairly loose."
Duke has not had much success the last two years in the NCAA tournament. In 1984, the Blue Devils lost in the first round to Washington, 80-78. In 1985, they beat Pepperdine in the first round but then lost to Boston College, 74-73.
"It's a crummy way to end the season," forward Mark Alarie said. "I don't look for a quick exit like the last two years. There's nothing holding us back."
Old Dominion (22-7), which won the regular-season title in the Sun Belt Conference but lost in the semifinals of the tournament to eventual champion Jacksonville, plays its first-round game Thursday (12:07) in Greensboro against West Virginia. The winner meets the Duke-Mississippi Valley State winner on Saturday afternoon. George Mason begins play in the National Invitation Tournament at 9:05 p.m. Thursday in Beaumont, Tex., against Lamar University. It is the first time the Patriots have gone to a tournament since they went to Division I in the 1978-79 season.
George Mason (19-11), which finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, will have a tough task in Beaumont. The Cardinals (18-11), who had won 20 games in each of the previous seven seasons, have a 113-11 record at home over the past nine seasons. They are 24-6 over the past two seasons since they began playing their home games in Montagne Center, which seats 10,080.
Lamar, which lost in the first round of the Southland Conference tournament, has a front line that includes 6-11 Greg Anderson, who averages 11.9 points and six rebounds a game, and 6-9 Anthony Todd (13.9, 5.7).