Area college basketball fans have three choices today: turn on the television set, take a trip or watch George Mason play Navy at Patriot Center.
Among the 20 televised games available locally -- barring preemptions for war news -- are four involving area teams. Georgetown plays at Boston College, Virginia travels to Georgia Tech, George Washington visits St. Joseph's and Maryland is at South Florida. Untelevised but possibly the best matchup of all is the American University-James Madison duel at Harrisonburg, Va., with first place at stake in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Principal interest in the Hoyas' visit to Boston College centers around the possibility that Alonzo Mourning will return to the lineup after missing nine of the last 10 games with a strained left arch. Mourning has been practicing lightly and the 19th-ranked Hoyas could use him, as evidenced by losses to Providence and Villanova in their last two road games.
This is a rematch of last Saturday's game at Capital Centre, when Georgetown rallied to win 61-56 with the aid of a mistake by the 45-second clock operator.
"I'm not ready to forget about it yet," Eagles Coach Jim O'Brien said yesterday. "But hopefully the kids have put it behind them. . . . At least we'll have our guy with his finger on the shot clock this time."
Georgetown (10-4, 2-2 in the Big East) is yielding just 35 percent field goal accuracy, below its NCAA season record of 37 percent. But the youthful Hoyas have struggled to get consistent scoring from the perimeter, with freshmen starting guards Joey Brown and Charles Harrison combining for 37 percent shooting. Boston College (9-7, 1-4) has lost seven straight to Georgetown.
If anyone is unconvinced about the merits of 14th-ranked Virginia, today's matchup at Alexander Memorial Coliseum could resolve the doubts. The Cavaliers, 11-3 overall and 3-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, are 8-1 on the road and claim that even Georgia Tech's pit holds no bad vibes.
"The big factor has to be our experience," said Cavaliers Coach Jeff Jones. "Our guys have been through some rough times. We've lost some road games and it's not the end of the world. We don't go into any arena really dreading it. Still, if you want to be a special team -- a team that's better than middle of the pack in the ACC -- you have to win some games on the road. We want to be that kind of team."
The key for the Cavaliers will be stopping super sophomore Kenny Anderson, whose 28.3 average ranks ninth in the nation.
"Last year we decided just to not guard him," Jones said. "We thought we were better off, because if you guard him and challenge him, you give him opportunities. We just let him stay on the perimeter and shoot threes. Now he shoots threes way too well, so we can't do that. We have to find some way at least to slow him down. You can't stop him, because he does so many things so well."
Virginia won both regular season meetings a year ago, but Georgia Tech gained revenge in the final of the ACC Tournament, then went on to reach the NCAA Final Four.
"We've got our backs against the wall a little bit," said Coach Bobby Cremins. "We're not playing our best basketball right now and Virginia is playing as well as anybody in the country."
One plus for Georgia Tech (9-5, 1-2) is the return of 7-foot Matt Geiger, who missed one game with a sprained ankle. "Matt hasn't finished a full practice yet," Cremins cautioned. "And although his loss hurt us, it's not like he was playing great before he was hurt."
George Washington beat St. Joseph's by 10 points at Smith Center Nov. 26. However, the Colonials have been very inconsistent and Coach Mike Jarvis does not know what to expect, after watching his team blow a 12-point lead in a home-court loss to Rutgers on Thursday.
Asked what adjustments he could make, Jarvis replied: "As far as I'm concerned, there is one simple adjustment. That is to make the easy basket when you've got a chance to put it away. We don't seem to be able to do that."
Coach Gary Williams chastised his Maryland team for a lack of intensity in Wednesday's loss to Virginia. If the Terrapins, who have dropped three in a row, cannot get up for a traditional ACC rival like the Cavaliers, one must wonder how high they will be for the nonconference game against South Florida.
"We have to stay fired up for 40 minutes," said Kevin McLinton, who took over at point guard when Walt Williams broke his leg. "If we don't, I'm sure we're going to hear about it from Coach. It's unfortunate that we didn't win that Virginia game. I take some of the blame, because I could have done a better job of setting up our offense."
Although they won the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden, the Terrapins (8-7) are winless in four road games. South Florida (11-2) was flirting with a Top 25 ranking until it was beaten by Alabama-Birmingham Thursday.
When James Madison (8-6) entertains American (8-5), it will be making only its second home appearance in 42 days. In nine road games during that stretch, the Dukes played in six states and four time zones.
The winner will be in first place in the CAA, with James Madison currently 3-0 and American 3-1. The Dukes are coming off a weird overtime victory over North Carolina-Wilmington in which they had only six players available at the finish.
Three usual starters -- Billy Coles, Jeff Chambers and Barry Brown -- were on suspension for missing curfew two nights earlier at East Carolina. Two players fouled out and guard Kenny Brooks sprained an ankle, which will keep him out of action for four weeks. The suspended players will be back tonight.
The lone local game matches the two CAA teams with the poorest overall records. Navy (5-10) features point guard Erik Harris, whose 20.4 average leads the league. George Mason (5-11) has beaten the Midshipmen in their last six meetings.