Joe Cantafio already has determined that when his Virginia Military Institute team plays No. 17 Georgetown today at 2 p.m. at Capital Centre it will be a positive experience, even if his team loses by 50.

"Yes, you have to get the positive out of everything," said Cantafio, a former assistant under Morgan Wootten at DeMatha High. "Georgetown is the best team we're ever going to play. Whatever we can do, we'll try and take the positive from it. Nobody in our league {Southern Conference} equals Georgetown, and nobody in the country equals Georgetown under pressure."

Nobody, thankfully, is known for the discharge of firearms like the West Virginia Mountaineers mascot, who will try to incite the masses with bursts of blank musket fire today when Maryland visits Morgantown for a 4 p.m. game against the Mountaineers.

Elsewhere, George Washington plays at Michigan State, and Wichita State faces George Mason at Patriot Center at 8 p.m.

Georgetown opened the season in the tropics, with two wins over Hawaii-Loa.

"We've gone to Hawaii for six or seven years," Coach John Thompson said, "and it's mainly to regroup and get our heads together philosophically. We work in our younger players and try to get a feel for what we want to do later."

Freshman Anthony Tucker has the highest scoring average (16 ppg) after two games, but Thompson discounted the numbers.

"We used Anthony and Johnny Jones a lot because they hadn't played with us before," Thompson said. "Perry {McDonald} didn't play as much because I know what he can do. We're trying to raise the confidence level of our younger players. We also went with a smaller lineup. Johnathan {Edwards} and Ronnie {Highsmith} didn't play as much and we used {6-foot-7 forward} Anthony Allen in the post."

And, like most Thompson teams, this one will use a lot of players.

"Charles Smith is probably our most outstanding scorer," Thompson said, "but he'll be a sub. He knows that and I know that. People's playing time will depend on the situations. I'm still looking for substitution patterns and who plays well with whom."

As for VMI (1-1), which is coming off a loss to Radford, Thompson knows his team is the heavy favorite.

"Certainly we are supposed to win this game," Thompson said. "But there have been a lot of times in my 16 years of coaching that we were supposed to win and didn't."

West Virginia officials expect a near sellout in their 14,000-seat West Virgina University Coliseum, where the mascot periodically shoots a musket (with blanks) into the air to get the crowd riled up. It apparently helps, or at least doesn't hurt, West Virginia's showing on the court, as the Mountaineers were 14-2 at home last season.

"We haven't lost many here," said Coach Gale Catlett, whose team was 23-8 last season. "Our fans, of course, assume we're going to win every game, but we have played pretty well here."

The Terrapins (3-0) are coming off a 65-52 victory over Winthrop Thursday at Cole Field House.

"We're going to have to play a lot better than we did here," Maryland Coach Bob Wade said after the Winthrop victory.

One of Maryland's few highlights last season was a 65-62 victory over West Virginia in College Park.

"It was," said Wade. "We were the underdogs -- actually, we're still the underdogs -- and it was great because they came here and our little rag-tag group played a good game. It wasn't pretty, though."

Catlett, whose team is 2-0, said his team last season was still evolving at that point.

"I thought they played awfully well and they deserved to beat us. The team we played with was not set like it was later in the year. We were much better later. We beat Notre Dame {in South Bend} and won 23 games. Two guys who were in the lineup then didn't play against Maryland."

Last season, Maryland didn't have the players to run and press for 40 minutes as it does this season.

"We press full court and run the break, too," Catlett said. "It should be an exiciting game.

"Derrick Lewis is a great shot blocker and can play with anybody. Steve Hood and John Johnson and Teyon McCoy are good players, as is {Dave} Dickerson. Brian Williams may have been the best big man in the country last year and Cedric Lewis was one of the most highly recruited players. In my mind, Rudy Archer was the best junior college point guard. We tried to recruit him. They have great talent."