Questions, like points and rebounds, abound.
Which East Coast college basketball power--Georgetown or Duke--will survive today’s East Regional title game and advance to the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament’s Final Four?
Who will own the lane--Danny Ferry, Duke’s 6-foot 10-inch All-American of the present, or Alonzo Mourning, Georgetown’s 6-10 All-American of the future?
Which part-time player will be the favorite of the international satellite-dish set--Georgetown’s 7-foot Dikembe Mutombo or Duke’s 6-10 Alaa Abdelnaby?
And in what shape will we find these teams’ outstanding senior guards--Duke’s Quin Snyder, who lately has been stricken with migraine headaches, and Georgetown’s Charles Smith, who has been running a fever that keeps him playing hot and cold?
Smith could hold the most important answer, if favored Georgetown is to win this season-making game. Coach John Thompson wants the real Charles Smith to please show up. The one who was voted the Big East Conference’s player of the year. The one who averaged nearly 20 points a night.
After Smith scored one point in 32 minutes in Friday’s 69-61 victory over North Carolina State, Thompson wondered just how much Smith’s strength had been sapped by his bout with the flu, and just how long it would take him to fully recover.
“I ran into a friend who said, ‘Charles Smith didn’t look too good last night,’ ” Thompson said Saturday. “I know what he meant. Charles didn’t feel too good, and I don’t feel too good, either, when he’s not around.”
Thompson said he was reminded of a scene in a film in which a dead soldier was strapped to a horse and sent out to lead a charge, simply for inspiration’s sake. He was thinking of trying that with Smith, he joked.
Smith managed only a season-low four points in the regional opener against Princeton, but then bounced back with a healthy 34 against Notre Dame. Supposedly, he was back in form. Against N.C. State, though, Smith looked sickly.
Smith, who had snapped, “I’m entitled to a bad game,” after the Princeton affair, claimed he got motivated against Notre Dame by a courtside fan who at halftime hollered that he was overrated. Thompson also took credit for prodding Smith with a 2 a.m. phone call that told him to stop being so nice and start being more selfish.
“See, Charles gets caught up too much in that company line of ours where he thanks his teammates for everything and plays the game like it’s an equal-opportunity sport,” Thompson said. “It’s not an equal-opportunity sport. He has to get things going for us and take over sometimes. We’re a better team when he’s not so democratic.”
Mourning, who looks up to the senior despite being nine inches taller, said of Smith: “He’s our leader. It seems like the whole team rides on his shoulders.”
So, as Smith goes today, the Hoyas might go. Funny how these things work sometimes: Smith’s teammates hope he is feeling selfish and malevolent, while Duke’s players hope he is feeling sweet and benevolent. A timid Smith would work to Georgetown’s disadvantage.
Even Ferry remembers, from U.S. Olympic training camp, that Smith was “the politest person I’d ever met.”
The Blue Devils would love it if Smith, a defensive ace, would politely allow them to drive right past him.
Also worrying Duke is the shot-rejecting Mourning, who blocked five Friday night. Snyder said he and the Blue Devils intended to practice Saturday using the “broomstick method"--having someone bat down shots with a broom, for an idea of how difficult it will be to shoot over Mourning’s reach. “You can’t pull up for a jump shot two feet from him or you’ll get it blocked,” Ferry said. “You’ve got to drive on him.”
The last time Duke confronted such an intimidating center, Blue Devil Coach Mike Krzyzewski said, it was Navy’s David Robinson. “But he just had a bunch of Midshipmen around him,” said the coach, an old Army man who could not resist a dig. “Georgetown’s got some players to go along with Mourning.”
East Regional Notes
Dikembe Mutombo, the Georgetown sophomore from Kinshasa, Zaire, was asked if he was familiar with Seattle, the Final Four site. “Oh, yes. I have big map of United States,” he said. . . . Smiling his way through a locker-room conversation, Mutombo was interrupted by a mock-angry Georgetown Coach John Thompson, who said: “You’re enjoying that interview too much. You can’t do that if you want to be a good Georgetown man.”
A victory today would be Thompson’s 400th. . . . Georgetown is averaging a staggering 9.2 blocks a game, and has long since eclipsed the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. season record for blocks by a team. . . . When Charles Smith was a scrawny, 160-pound high school player, Thompson told him, on a recruiting visit in front of Smith’s mother, “You will never start for us. Don’t pout.” The coach says now: “He epitomizes the person who’s pulled himself up by his bootstraps.”
The career series favors Georgetown, 4-2, but the schools last met in 1933. “I’m amazed we haven’t run into each other at least in tournaments,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. . . . Duke hasn’t met any Big East team since a 1985 National Invitation Tournament game against St. John’s. . . . For the record: iDuke alumnus Richard M. Nixon was in the stands Friday night. His absence was incorrectly reported in some editions Saturday.