Friday, November 28, 2008
Updated: November 29, 12:17 PM ET
Maryland vs. Georgetown a big deal
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Maryland and Georgetown are going to downplay the significance of playing each other.
But I won't. And neither will the Washington media here to cover the Old Spice Classic.
Maryland and Georgetown should have a nonconference series akin to Cincinnati-Xavier. But they don't. They haven't played each other since the Sweet 16 of the 2001 NCAA tournament. The last regular-season game between the two teams was in 1993-94. Prior to that game, the two teams last met in 1980.
This is a big deal. Georgetown athletic director Bernard Muir said the topic of playing Maryland hasn't been discussed. He said that if it were to be broached, Georgetown coach John Thompson III and Maryland coach Gary Williams would have the final say.
Maryland and Georgetown will play at 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN2) in one of the best consolation games in a nonconference tournament -- ever. It might not feature two teams in the top 10, but I'd love for someone to tell me another game that would be as anticipated in a local area.
NBA scout Troy Weaver, a D.C. native and former AAU coach with D.C. Assault, said a Hoyas-Terps game would be one of the biggest games for the district.
Both rosters are dotted with local products. The Hoyas have six players from the Baltimore-D.C.-Northern Virginia area. Maryland has seven.
"It's ironic that we're playing them here," Williams said after Maryland's loss to Gonzaga on Friday night forced the Georgetown matchup Sunday. "It should be a good game. A lot of the guys know each other. I have the utmost respect for the way John has brought the program back to the level his father had it."
Georgetown guard Chris Wright said Sunday's game will be just another game. That sounds good, but the spin might not work with this one.
No one here can pinpoint the exact reason the two teams won't play. One theory being floated around is venue. Maryland considers the Verizon Center Georgetown's home court, which it is, although playing the game in D.C. likely would yield a much more balanced crowd than a game at the Comcast Center on Maryland's campus. Maryland fans certainly would flood the Verizon Center, and the two schools could work out a shared gate receipt deal for the event.
No one from either side said there was a request for the schools to be on opposite sides of the bracket at this tournament. So this upcoming meeting has occurred by chance, aided by Maryland's upset win over Michigan State on Thursday night.
And we're glad it happened. Hopefully this won't be a rare occurrence, although that appears to be the case.
• Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said forward Goran Suton will be re-evaluated Saturday night to see what's going on with his left knee sprain. Guton missed the first two games of this tournament. He is doubtful for Sunday's game against Wichita State and could be out for Wednesday's matchup against North Carolina at Ford Field in Detroit. The hope is that Suton doesn't need a scope, which would put him out for a few weeks.
Izzo said Suton's injury does show how one player can make a difference, since the Spartans do rely on his presence in their offensive sets.
• Gonzaga coach Mark Few was semi-serious when he said he wouldn't mind talking to Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl about getting rid of the Jan. 7 game at Tennessee. He said the Zags played the Vols last season in Seattle and now will play them in Orlando on the East Coast. So, why play the previously scheduled game in the East again, this time in Knoxville? Few knows the game will go on, but it will be odd for the Zags to play Tennessee twice in one season, both times in the East.
This is the second time in two weeks that a tournament has produced a matchup between teams already set to meet. Michigan and Duke faced off in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer last week in New York. Michigan already was slated to host Duke on Dec. 6.
• Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall zinged me, and for good reason. I did predict the Shockers would leave the Old Spice Classic 0-3, but it's not like I went way out on a limb. Wichita State is the one team in the eight-team field that wasn't projected to finish in the upper half of its conference or, in the case of Maryland, high enough to be in contention for an NCAA berth. Wichita State was projected to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference.
But Marshall didn't get to Wichita State from Winthrop and didn't become a top choice at South Florida by being a slouch. He can coach. And he motivated his inexperienced, but clearly talented, young team in a near-miss against Georgetown on Thursday and a win over MAAC favorite Siena on Friday.
"We had a chance to win against the 16th-ranked team in the country," Marshall said. "We had a chance to win. We just didn't finish it."
Marshall said that at worst, the Shockers will leave the Old Spice at .500 (3-3) if they can't beat Michigan State on Sunday.
"I'm just proud of our team and how tough they were and how much resolve they showed," Marshall said.
Freshman Toure' Murry said that once the Shockers played with Georgetown, they proved "everyone wrong. We're playing with a chip on our shoulder about all the doubts."
Marshall said after beating Siena that if he has the ninth-best team in the MVC, it's going to be an unbelievable year in the conference.
• Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said beating Georgetown was a big deal -- to him, to the program, to the SEC. He couldn't say enough about how much he admires the Georgetown program. He grew up in the Boston area, attended Boston College during its Big East era in the 1980s and actually hosted Patrick Ewing when he came on his recruiting visit.
• I never would have guessed that Siena and Oklahoma State would be playing to see who doesn't come out of here with three losses, but that's the beauty of these events. Still, both teams could be in contention for NCAA bids in March, although the Saints, barring wins at Kansas and Pitt, likely will have to win the MAAC tournament.
• Former Gonzaga guard Quentin Hall took a flight from his native Nassau, Bahamas, to see the Zags for the first time since he stopped playing with them during the 1999 Elite Eight year that catapulted the Zags' program into the national spotlight.
• Pearl is going for his 400th win Sunday against Gonzaga. He is one spot behind Few in active career winning percentages. Both trail No. 1 Roy Williams of North Carolina.