They were perhaps college basketball's most glamorous programs of the 1980s, and even now they are more alike than their differences in disposition might suggest. When Georgetown and Duke meet tonight at soldout Capital Centre as part of an ACC-Big East Challenge doubleheader, each will be looking for a boost to help get through times of uncertainty and adjustment.
The sixth-ranked Hoyas and No. 5 Blue Devils almost certainly will attack one another with 40 minutes of chest-to-chest, pressure defense. They probably will let their best players -- Alonzo Mourning of Georgetown and Duke's Christian Laettner -- go head-to-head more than either team would like, and hope the other club's star gets into foul trouble first.
And both can only cross their fingers and rely on a supporting cast of unproven newcomers or untried holdovers. For all of the differences in image that begin with their coaches -- the Hoyas' imposing, often-controversial John Thompson and the Blue Devils' button-down, usually congenial Mike Krzyzewski -- the bottom lines at Georgetown and Duke are virtual mirror images these days.
"It's a good chance for us to see where we are and for them to see where they are," said Krzyzewski, who plans to be on the bench despite the effects of walking pneumonia that has limited his activity for two weeks. "It's a great opportunity, and it should be a tremendous game."
Georgia Tech and St. John's will begin the evening with a 7 p.m. matchup featuring the Yellow Jackets' brilliant point guard, Kenny Anderson, and the Redmen's high-scoring forward, Malik Sealy.
St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca pledged that this will be the next-best thing to a homecoming for Anderson, the ballhandling wizard from Queens who helped take Georgia Tech to the Final Four last season as a freshman.
"He's not coming to New York City, so we'll bring New York City to him," said Carnesecca, who recruited Anderson but was told he wanted to go to college away from home.
Now Carnesecca must find a way to contain Anderson, who has averaged 18.7 points and 10 assists in the 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets' three games -- wins over Augusta and Morgan State and Saturday's upset loss at Richmond. The No. 17 Redmen (3-0) are led by Sealy, a junior from the Bronx who has produced 26.3 points per game on 35-of-48 shooting.
Duke and Georgetown have combined for seven Final Four appearances since 1982, but both teams are young this season. Georgetown (3-0) starts three freshmen and has used five newcomers in its eight-player rotation. Duke (5-1) employs five freshmen and sophomores among its top nine. The Blue Devils were pushed harder in the early going -- they lost to No. 3 Arkansas in the preseason NIT, while Georgetown has yet to play a Division I team -- but Krzyzewski insists: "I like this team, but we're still feeling our way around."
Both clubs are experimenting. Krzyzewski put former end-of-the-bencher Crawford Palmer in the starting lineup two games ago, and the 6-foot-9, 235-pound center from Arlington has alleviated some of the pressure on Laettner inside. The Hoyas, meanwhile, are searching for offensive direction, a conclusion illustrated by the fact that freshman guard Charles Harrison has taken three more shots (42) than Mourning and played 23 fewer minutes.
Yet Thompson seems to have taken an instant liking to this team and first-year point guard Joey Brown.
Georgetown's major concerns, oddly, may be on the defensive end. Quick, versatile small forwards probably will give the Hoyas fits all season, and Duke has one in freshman Grant Hill (South Lakes High). Their twin-towers deployment of Mourning and 7-2 senior center Dikembe Mutombo limits the Hoyas' ability to apply full-court pressure, and Mourning still is learning to play on the perimeter in half-court defense.
He may have to do so often if Georgetown plays much man-to-man against Duke, and his assignment likely will be the mobile Laettner -- who upstaged Mourning with 24 points the last time these teams played, an 85-77 Duke victory in the 1989 East Regional final in East Rutherford, N.J.