The chant started before George Washington had even polished off its victory over Boston University Friday night.
"We want Maryland!" screamed the George Washington student section. "We want Maryland!"
The feeling appears to be mutual. The Colonials have won three of their last five meetings with Maryland entering tonight's game, the finale of the BB&T Classic's one-day tripleheader. They are the only local team coming off an NCAA tournament appearance. They are the highest-ranked area team. And the Colonials beat Maryland to win the BB&T Classic last year, when it was a two-day, four-team event.
"We're not underestimating them this year, we're coming to prove ourselves," Maryland guard D.J. Strawberry said. "We're ready for revenge."
George Washington is 4-0 and ranked 19th in the country; Maryland is 5-1 and ranked 23rd. The schools haven't played when both were nationally ranked since 1955.
At George Washington, fans have booed at every mention of the word "Maryland" over the Smith Center public address system this season; they cheered wildly when the Terrapins trailed Minnesota last week. With only three scheduled games against teams that played in last year's NCAA tournament, Colonials fans have spent weeks anticipating another chance to knock off the area's premier program.
Players have taken a slightly more measured approach. Maryland's schedule includes 14 games against teams that played in last year's NCAA tournament, and seven games against teams that are currently ranked. The Terps thus have countless chances to impress the tournament selection committee, and have described tonight's game as a chance to reestablish local bragging rights rather than a long-term measuring stick.
"We owe those guys from them beating us last year, especially when you see a lot of those guys during the summer," said Maryland senior forward Travis Garrison, one of seven area players on the Terps' roster. "This is my last year to face GW, and we're going to get a win."
George Washington hopped into the national picture with its wins over Michigan State and Maryland in last year's event -- "We were chasing guys last year, and then when we beat Maryland and Michigan State in the BB&T, guys were chasing us," George Washington point guard Carl Elliott said. But despite those wins, the Colonials were not assured of an NCAA tournament bid until they won the Atlantic-10 championship, and players said a victory tonight would serve largely as a confidence boost heading into their league schedule.
"I think it means more to our fans and our school than it does to us personally," said George Washington forward Omar Williams, who, like most of his teammates, did not grow up in the Washington area. "I mean, we do look at it as a big game, playing against a very talented team, but other than that it's just another game on the schedule."
Neither head coach is particularly thrilled with this season's format. A loss to George Washington could be more damaging to Maryland than a win would be helpful. "It's not a good situation this year for us," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. And George Washington, which has trouble luring national powers to the District, lost the opportunity to play two games against major-conference opponents. Colonials Coach Karl Hobbs said this year's format "hurts no one but us."
Tonight's other participants are merely trying to get a victory. The first game pits 0-3 Howard, under first-year coach Gil Jackson, against 0-4 Navy, led by second-year coach Billy Lange. The second game matches 0-5 American, which is coming off a 31-point loss to Ohio University, against 3-2 George Mason, which has won two straight road games after losing to Creighton by 20 points at home.
Staff writer Eric Prisbell contributed to this report.