- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

Welcome to Georgetown's moment of proof.
Throughout the first month of the season, the 16th-ranked Hoyas (9-1) have heard the snickers of skeptics. But when No.5 Virginia (6-0) steps onto the floor against Georgetown tonight at MCI Center in the John Thompson Classic, the Hoyas finally will have the opportunity to turn ridicule into respect.
"It's a huge chance for us to prove we belong among the elite," said senior point guard Kevin Braswell after the Hoyas' 99-80 victory over Howard on Monday night. "It reminds me of the first Seton Hall game last year [in which the Hoyas pounded the 11th-ranked Pirates 78-66].
"Before that game, nobody thought we were any good," Braswell said. "Everybody was saying we hadn't played anybody and we weren't for real. We've heard the same things this year, but we can end all that against Virginia, because they're ranked like No.5 in the country. We'll all be ready to play, I guarantee you that."
After Georgetown's victory over Howard, ESPN's Karl Ravech openly mocked the Hoyas on "SportsCenter" for their "creampuff December schedule." Virginia hoops broadcaster Gary Waters then included this little tidbit in his breakdown of the 'Hoos vs. Hoyas matchup:
"The Hoyas are currently ranked 16th (ESPN/AP) and have posted a 9-1 record. That record would be a little more 'jaw-dropping' if they had played a team with an RPI better than 700. To put it bluntly, the Georgetown basketball schedule makes the Virginia Tech football schedule seem downright imposing.
"The most recent of these outings, a 99-80 win over a 5-4 Howard team Virginia crushed 115-66, may have caught the Hoyas looking ahead to Thursday. The Hoyas have yet to face a team as talented or as athletic as the 'Hoos."
Frankly, the timing of the scorn from both Ravech and Waters seems rather strange, considering the facts. Ravech obviously isn't aware of it, but Georgetown's non-conference schedule this season, which includes top-50 RPI teams Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and UCLA, is stronger than it has been in a decade.
And though that schedule is still weak relative to those of many other major conference teams, Georgetown coach Craig Esherick is clearly in the process of changing the school's reputation of scheduling early season patsies.
Just two days ago, Esherick signed a contract for a December game against Duke next season. And at least one other major conference team will join UCLA, Virginia and South Carolina as opponents next season.
Second, Waters might want to consult the glass houses parable before he chucks any more verbal stones at Georgetown's schedule. With its game against Michigan State canceled, the Cavaliers have yet to face a team with a power rating of better than 100.
Georgetown, while nobody would dare to trumpet its MEAC-laden schedule, has at least faced two teams in the top 50 of the power ratings (No.22 Georgia and No.47 South Carolina).
Fact is, neither of these teams has faced a team of the caliber it will see tonight.
On the surface, the matchup would seem to hinge on the battle between Georgetown's size and strength and Virginia's athleticism and quickness. Defensively, a Virginia team which features no starter taller than 6-foot-8, is likely to have trouble stopping Georgetown's inside tandem of 6-8, 263-pound power forward Mike Sweetney (19.3 points, 9.2 rebounds) and 6-11, 235-pound center Wesley Wilson (16.1 points, 7.6 rebounds).
"I'd like to think we'll have an advantage on the inside," said Esherick. "They're going to want to play an up-and-down game, though. And I want to be able to get Mike and Wes touches, so that might mean trying to slow that tempo down a bit."
Georgetown is likely to have similar defensive problems matching up with Virginia's quickness. Braswell (15.7 points, 5.4 assists), who scored a career-high 40 points in Georgetown's 115-111 triple-overtime NIT victory over Virginia two years ago, should have the quickness to stay with the Cavaliers' 6-5 point man, Roger Mason Jr. (19.5 points).
But Virginia off-guard Adam Hall (11.3 points) is exponentially quicker than Georgetown's starting shooting guard, Gerald Riley, and Virginia swingman Chris Williams (17.2 points) should enjoy the same advantage in athleticism over Georgetown's Victor Samnick.
The key could be Watson (11.7 points, 9.5 rebounds), who could prove too quick for Sweetney and Wilson on both ends of the floor but must stay out of foul trouble for the Cavaliers to be successful.
"They are extremely athletic across the board, but Watson is of particular concern," Esherick said. "He could cause some problems for us offensively with his quickness, especially on the offensive boards. We've had a problem at times keeping teams off the offensive glass, and Watson is a heck of a rebounder. We can't get lazy boxing out, particularly on Watson, and allow them second and third shots."

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