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G'town returns to glory

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001


Even if few others did, West Virginia coach Gale Catlett could see it coming and, like the doomsayer on the street corner, he unabashedly tried to warn a generally unsuspecting public:

Georgetown Hoya-mania would be back.

"I told every one at Big East press day that I thought Georgetown had overall, depth-wise, size-wise, the best talent in the Big East Conference," Catlett said.

A few months ago, his assessment elicited a sardonic roll of the eyes, a patronizing response of, "Sure, coach. Sure."

Not anymore.

Georgetown, once the "Beast of the East" but relegated to the league's second tier since the 1997-98 season, remained one of two unbeaten teams in the nation after an impressive 99-91 win at No. 18 Seton Hall.

The No. 9 Hoyas are off to their second-best start, two wins shy of matching their 18-0 start in 1984-85 when Patrick Ewing led the defending national champions to the final game.

"Our guys have been playing well lately," said Hoyas coach Craig Esherick, in his third season after serving as John Thompson's assistant since 1982. "What we cannot do is forget that our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament. We have not made the tournament yet."

Sure, coach. Sure.

Any one out there believe that?

"They're athletic and they're talented," said Seton Hall coach Tommy Amaker, whose team has lost twice to Georgetown. "Craig has done a tremendous job of keeping those kids very hungry."

And cohesive.

Unlike many teams, Georgetown goes 10-deep and all 10 average at least 13 minutes and none plays more than 30. Entering today's game against Pittsburgh, freshman forward Mike Sweetney leads the team in scoring (12.6 points) with eight others averaging between 7.1 and 10.9 points.

"Team chemistry is a very delicate thing and it's a very important thing if you want to be a tournament team or a championship team," Esherick said. "I think the chemistry on our team up to this point has been very good. Everybody has accepted his role on the team and the seniors (center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, center Lee Scruggs and guards Anthony Perry and Nat Burton) and our lone junior, Kevin Braswell, have provided tremendous leadership in terms of confidence and also in terms of letting the younger guys know what I expect."

Another key has been the maturation of Braswell into a floor general. He used to think shoot first, pass second. That's not what you want from your point guard. But this season, he's increased his assists from 5.1 to 6.9. That's not to say he doesn't let it go from time to time. He had a game-best 26 in Monday's win at Seton Hall.

"They just wear people down," Catlett said recently. "They're a little better than I thought they would be, quite frankly."

TIP-INS: Alabama coach Mark Gottfried turns 37 today and wouldn't mind a gift of a win at Arkansas. Coincidentally, he celebrated birthday No. 36 with a 67-60 win at Arkansas. ... Utah's nation-leading home winning streak (54 games) ended on Dec. 9 with a loss to Weber State, but the Utes still own the nation's longest conference home winning streak (40).

- Brian Landman covers men's college basketball. He can be reached at (813) 226-3347 or by e-mail at landman@sptimes.com.

By the numbers

1 -- Arizona player to record a triple double (Loren Woods has two, including 13

points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks against Washington on Jan. 13).

2 -- Undefeated teams remaining in Division I (Stanford and Georgetown).

6 -- Conferences represented in the latest AP poll (ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-10).

36.6 -- Combined scoring average of injured Florida stars Brent Wright, Teddy Dupay and Justin Hamilton or 41 percent of the team's offense.

47 -- Wins by North Carolina against Clemson in Chapel Hill; that's out of 47 games.

199 -- Career wins for San Diego State coach Steve Fisher; he goes for 200 tonight against Air Force.

Haven't you done enough?

If the NBA hasn't hurt the college game enough by enticing an increasing number of underclassmen and high school prospects, it might deliver another shot with its planned developmental league. At least Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski thinks so. "I don't see how it helps the college game," he said. "There's no question the league would compete with college because it's already signed a TV contract. If those games are on TV, ESPN, ESPN2, that means there's college games that aren't on. So it has to have an impact and I would think more the negative impact on the college game."

In case you were wondering

Miami senior forward Elton Tyler, the top returning scorer (10.1) and rebounder (5.5), is back in school after taking a semester off and is eligible to play. But new coach Perry Clark has decided to redshirt him. Said Clark: "I think it's the best thing for him from an academic standpoint, from a physical standpoint and from a playing standpoint. I just didn't think he was ready to step in and make that big a difference right away and by the time he would be. . . .I just didn't think it made sense to me to do it and now we've got him for a whole year next year."

Paying tribute

The La Salle Explorers are wearing a No. 33 on their uniforms in memory of former star Ken Durrant, the school's second all-time leading scorer and rebounder who died of a heart attack on Jan. 7.

Quotable

"I don't mind being at a place where there's expectations because that probably means you've got good players. But sometimes that makes the winning a relief instead of the winning fun. Certainly there's times when we've gone through a little bit of that here. Having expectations definitely puts a different spin on your psyche as far as coaching even though you don't want it to." -- BILL SELF, First-year Illinois coach

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