- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2001

Talk about March Madness.
For their initial game in the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament, the University of Maryland Terrapins will travel halfway across the nation to take on a team from their own back yard the George Mason Patriots.
And joining them in the West subregional in Boise, Idaho? None other than the resurgent Georgetown Hoyas, a storied program making its first NCAA appearance since 1996.
"I was shocked," said George Mason senior center George Evans. "I didn't think they would send two teams let alone three teams with Georgetown in there all the way to the West. But that's March Madness for you."
Maryland, the No. 3 seed in the West, faces No. 14 seed George Mason, and No. 10 seed Georgetown goes up against No. 7 seed Arkansas at the Boise State University Pavilion on Thursday.
The University of Virginia, seeded No. 5 in the South, travels to Memphis to face No. 12 seed Gonzaga at the Pyramid on Friday.
At 21-10, Maryland enters the tournament as one of the nation's hottest teams, having won six of its last seven games. Five of those victories were against ranked teams, and the Terrapins' only loss came on a last-second shot in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal against Duke, the No. 1 seed in the East.
Led by sweet-shouting, all-ACC guard Juan Dixon, burly center Lonny Baxter and smooth forward Terence Morris, Maryland sports a deep and talented team and is shooting for the school's first-ever Final Four apperance.
"We're playing our best basketball of the season," Morris said. "I think this is the hottest team I've been on going into this time. We have the talent and the capability; it's just up to us to do it."
Maryland's first-round opponent, George Mason, is making its second NCAA tournament appearance in three seasons and features one of college basketball's most endearing players in Evans, a 30-year-old Persian Gulf war veteran.
The Patriots, who finished the season 18-10, defeated UNC Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament final. They did not have to face CAA regular-season champion Richmond, which was barred from the conference tournament because the school is joining the Atlantic 10 next season.
Last season, George Mason lost to Maryland 69-66 at Cole Field House.
"We feel very confident that we can compete with [Maryland]," said Patriots guard Tremaine Price. "Even though they are in the ACC, we went down there in their home [last season] and played a great game… . They know we're not a pushover."
Coming off a four-year NCAA drought, Georgetown is enjoying a return to national prominence under third-year coach Craig Esherick, a longtime assistant to legendary former coach John Thompson.
Behind the heady play of point guard Kevin Braswell, the explosive scoring of guard Demetrius Hunter and a characteristically swarming defense, the Hoyas finished 23-7 and were ranked in the top 25 for most of the season despite inconsistent play at times.
"We're in, and that's all I'm concerned about," said Esherick. "I'm happy for [our seniors]."
Like Georgetown, Virginia is a program on the rebound: Under third-year coach Pete Gillen, the Cavaliers have improved from 11-19 in 1997 to 20-8 and a top 25 ranking this season.
Unlike Georgetown and the other area teams, however, Virginia won't be playing in Boise a slightly unfamiliar locale, according to George Mason's Price.
"I was amazed," he said. "I just talked to my mother and she said, 'Uh, how do you get there?' "


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide