Georgetown's game today at Syracuse won't answer all the questions about the Hoyas, but it might provide an indication of whether their three-game Big East losing streak is a midseason slump or a sign of troubles yet to come.

If they lose today in a nationally televised game (WUSA-TV-9) starting at noon, it will be the first time they have lost four in a row since the 1974-75 season, when they went 18-10. You remember that year. That's when Maryland beat them, 104-71. Later, they lost consecutively to Randolph-Macon, Fairfield, Seton Hall, American (in double overtime), Holy Cross and St. Peter's.

"We've got to focus on our own team," Hoyas Coach John Thompson said. "I don't think that we can afford at this point to lose three games in the Big East and not be concerned."

For the Hoyas to beat Syracuse, they will have to hold their own inside against sophomore forward Derrick Coleman and senior center Rony Seikaly. Rebounding may be especially crucial in this game if the Hoyas continue with their shooting problems. On the other end of the court, Syracuse has five players averaging double figures in scoring, and the team is shooting 52 percent from the floor overall.

The Hoyas will get their share of points in transition and off their defense. But unless they score all of their points that way, they will have to do better in their halfcourt offense.

The Orangemen (3-2 in the Big East, 12-4 overall) have all the same ingredients as those teams which have given Georgetown (11-4, 1-3 in the Big East) its biggest problems so far.

In junior guard Sherman Douglas, Syracuse has the guard who can handle defensive pressure and score. Douglas, from Spingarn High School, leads the team in scoring at 16.8 a game, on 56 percent shooting from the floor, with 43 steals.

"As always," Thompson said, "I think that Sherman is one of the keys to controlling the temperament of the game. Sherman comes down, he brings the ball down, he's out front on the defense. He's developed into a helluva leader on that team."

Douglas got a scare earlier in the season when he went down against Siena with a banged-up knee after taking a charging foul. He returned to have a good second half, but he hasn't forgotten the moment.

"I take a lot of charges," he said. "This time, the pain was really there. I was kind of scared."

"Every time Sherman is on the bench," Seikaly said, "half of me is on the bench with him."

Douglas' game is up-tempo, and, although the Hoyas do best in transition, Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim will match Georgetown run for run.

"We like to play that way if we can," he said. "That's our style of play. If that's the case, we'll be fine."

Coleman, at 6-9, and Seikaly, 6-10, are the bulls inside who can dominate a team on the glass. Coleman's game inside has made him a high-percentage shooter (61 percent, 14.4 points a game), and he leads the team in rebounding at 11.2 a game. As a team, Syracuse pulls gets more than 44 rebounds per game.

Seikaly leads the team in blocks with 42 and is second in scoring at 15.6 a game. Overall, the Orangemen have averaged nearly 92 points a game, 76 a game in the Big East.

Syracuse has replaced the departed Greg Monroe with sophomore guard Matt Roe, who's made 48 percent of his three-point shots (42 of 95) on the way to a 10.9 points per game average. Steve Thompson, a 6-4 sophomore guard, shoots 54 percent from the field (12.9 points a game) and is second on the team in steals.

Off the bench, Earl Duncan, a highly touted 6-3 sophomore guard who sat out last season, averages 6.1 points, and sophomore forward Keith Hughes adds 6.1 points.

"They've got two exceptional inside people in Seikaly and Coleman," Thompson said, "and we've got to be able to contain them. {Steve} Thompson has started to establish his own identity, because he fits so perfectly. He can get shots for himself because of his athletic ability. They don't have to get him the ball; he can go get it off the boards."

Boeheim expects that the Hoyas, despite their offensive troubles, will still manage to get the ball inside to someone.

"They've gone inside to {Ronnie} Highsmith and {Johnathan} Edwards before against us," Boeheim said. "We know {Perry} McDonald will be there. It's very similar to last year's team, with Reggie {Williams}."

Georgetown will get no sympathy from Syracuse or the probable sellout crowd at the Carrier Dome. Georgetown has beaten Syracuse nine out of the last 11 times the two clubs have played, often in circumstances when the Hoyas looked outmanned.

Last season, the Orangemen lost six games before their one-point defeat by Indiana in the NCAA championship game. Three of those six losses were to Georgetown.

The first time, McDonald's rebound at the buzzer gave the Hoyas an 83-81 overtime victory at Capital Centre. On Feb. 22, at the Carrier Dome, he scored a career-high 26 in front of a record Syracuse crowd, and the Hoyas won, 72-71.

Of course, Georgetown knocked off the Orangemen in the Big East final also, when Reggie Williams had 25 and nine rebounds in a 69-59 victory.