Duke is the proud owner of three national championship banners, the nation’s most brutal home court, most celebrated coach, most feared three-point shooter and most consistent big man. The Blue Devils still boast an unblemished record, are the nearly unanimous No. 1 team in the nation, and the winners of six games against ranked opponents in 2005-06 alone.

Georgetown, though steeped in tradition, flies just one lonely championship banner – a banner that reads 1984 – in the rafters of a home arena that the team merely rents. The Hoyas fight a slow battle to return to the glory once known so well on the Hilltop. They call their own not the men that once made the institution great, but their unproven, if promising, children. And Georgetown is still grasping for that one big win that will signify their true return to prominence.

Hidden by their diverging paths and contrasting levels of success, however, lie many a link, numerous similarities and several footprints made upon each other by the two esteemed, even legendary, universities set to do battle tomorrow.

Admissions Ambition

One needs to look only to the admissions office for the first similarity between the two schools. According to The Princeton Review, Georgetown, home to 6,395 students, boasts a 22 percent admissions rate, and, generally speaking, accepts students who earn between 640 and 750 on each section of their SATs.

Similarly, Duke, home to 6,107 undergrads, accepts roughly 23 percent of their applicants, whom on average score between 660 and 780 on those vaunted standardized tests. Both schools end up enrolling roughly half of those accepted, and, also according to the college-preparatory website, Duke is one of the 10 schools to which most Georgetown applicants mail their qualifications.

Out on the athletic fields, the rigors put into place by the admissions office are both a blessing and a curse. In terms of prestige, what can be better than boasting that the athletes meet the academic standards that many other collegiate contestants do not? What is a better recruiting ploy than the appeal of a Georgetown degree?

But what makes things difficult is that to be one of Georgetown’s, or Duke’s, athletes, one needs to have a more substantial resume than the hired guns at, say, Ohio State or the University of Connecticut. Both Georgetown and Duke, though at different levels of the NCAA, have felt the repercussions of increased academic qualifications on the football field, where neither program has had all that much success.

Legendary Leaders

The basketball court has been different. Starting almost the moment John Thompson Jr. hit the Hilltop in 1972, the Hoya men’s basketball team has been the real deal. Assuming control of the team after a 3-23 season, Thompson single-handedly transformed the Hoyas into a national powerhouse, bringing GU to the Midwest Regional by 1975, crashing the final four by 1982, and winning a championship by 1984.

The 1980s were truly the heydays of Georgetown hoops. The Hoyas made the Final Four in ’82, ’84, and ’85. They made 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments from 1979-92, won seven Big East titles, and contributed 26 players to the NBA draft. What made Thompson’s reign even more special was his commitment to his players’ education. Seventy-five of the 77 players that stayed at Georgetown for four years received a degree.

When Thompson resigned in 1999 with a remarkable .714 winning percentage, his legacy was already sealed. JTII built the Hoyas from relatively obscurity into one of America’s most feared basketball teams throughout the 1980s and into the ’90s.

What John Thompson did for the Georgetown program is strikingly similar to the work of Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.

Coach K took over the Blue Devils’ program in 1980 after a successful run at the United States Military Academy. When he arrived, Duke was a relative nobody, and Krzyzewski did not encounter success overnight. He did, however, find himself ACC Coach of the Year by 1984, coach of a final four participant by 1986, and a champion in 1991.

Krzyzewski went on to win March Madness the next year and again in 2001. He’s been to 10 Final Fours, won five ACC Coach of the Year awards, nine ACC Championships, and was recently named Team USA’s Olympic coach. In over 25 years, the diminutive guru has a winning percentage approaching .740.

Seemingly poised to keep coaching for years, Krzyzewski has already established himself as the nation’s premier coach, one of the best of all time, and the savior, creator and mastermind of Duke basketball. It is impossible to ignore the similarities between Krzyzewski and Georgetown’s Thompson.

Both schools have benefited academically from the rise of their basketball programs. In 2003, Myles Brand, chief executive of the NCAA, told the New York Times, “One school in recent years that has capitalized on [athletic success] the most is Duke. Before Duke began its run as a major basketball power, it did not have the academic standing it does now.”

Similarly, Georgetown’s dean of undergraduate admission, Charles Deacon, told THE HOYA that same month that, “Particularly men’s basketball, which was on television [when John Thompson first joined the team], really did help stamp the Georgetown name recognition.”

Deacon also pointed out to THE HOYA that in 1972, roughly 5,000 students applied to Georgetown. By 1982, when the Hoyas reached their first final four, applications were up to 8,000.

All in the Family

One group that has met no trouble gaining admission to Georgetown and Duke for their athletic children is the Paulus family.

Consisting of six boys and a lone girl, the Paulus’ of anilus, N.Y. certainly have their fair share of athletic prowess. Their eldest son, Dave (MSB ’03), was heavily recruited by former Head Football Coach Bob Benson and was convinced by Georgetown’s academic prestige to come to the Hilltop. Paulus, a punter all four years, wasn’t given the chance to be the fulltime starting quarterback until his senior year, but in 2002 he capitalized on that opportunity, throwing for 16 touchdowns and just four picks.

Dave Paulus wasn’t one-dimensional, either. In addition to his versatile contributions to the football team, Paulus also walked onto the basketball team and played – though sparingly – in his first two years at Georgetown. Academics and the increased rigors caused by football’s move to the Patriot League then forced him to abandon his basketball career.

A year after Dave came to Georgetown, it was time for younger brother Matt (MSB ’04), a linebacker, to choose a school, and he quickly came to the decision to follow his brother. The year after that, younger brother Dan (MSB ’05), a receiver and not quite as highly touted recruit, also chose to come play football for Bob Benson.

Most recently, though, yet another Paulus brother was forced to decide where he would spend his collegiate career. But this time was different. Instead of being projected to be a Division I-AA star like his older brothers, Greg Paulus was tagged as one of the nation’s best high school athletes as early as his sophomore year in high school.

Greg was not just ranked as the best high school point guard in the country, but also as one of, if not the, best high school quarterbacks in America (he won the Gatorade National Player of the Year award). Though he pondered Georgetown, the chance to be the point guard at national power Duke proved too alluring. He even gave up football for that chance. This season, Greg is averaging 6.4 points and 5.2 assists per game for the Blue Devils.

Hardwood History

The battles, however, have not been limited to the admissions wars and recruiting clashes. Duke and Georgetown have met on the hardwood 10 times, with each winning five contests. The last meeting was a 2004 laugher, from which Duke emerged victorious, 85-66. Shelden Williams, still at Duke, now a senior, led the Blue Devils with 26 points, while the Hoyas were, ironically, also led by a player still suiting up, as now-senior forward Brandon Bowman dropped 19 points. Just like tomorrow’s match-up, Duke came in No. 1 in the nation and though they weren’t undefeated, they were on a 12-game win streak.

Georgetown lost in 2003, to – you guessed it – No. 1 Duke, 93-86. The last time the Hoyas defeated the Blue Devils was in 1990, as No. 6 Georgetown defeated No. 5 Duke, 79-74.

If losing to No. 1 teams seems like a recurring theme, that is because it is. All-time, the Hoyas are 2-16 against the nation’s top team. Georgetown’s most recent loss to a No.1 was an early season match-up a year ago with future national runner-up Illinois.

Professional Pedigree

Through most of the 1990s, thanks to Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), Alonzo Mourning (CAS ’92), Dikeme Mutombo (CAS ’91) and Allen Iverson, Georgetown was recognized as a factory for successful professional basketball players, especially big men. Duke, on the other hand, despite their mounting success in the NCAA tournament, was stuck with the rap of being unable to produce top-level NBA prospects. Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley serve as just two examples.

Now, however, with Ewing retired, Mourning and Mutombo aged, and Duke’s underachieving Laettner’s and Hurley’s replaced by mainstays like Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer, the two schools are beginning to be thought of in the same category. Indeed, many former Hoyas and Blue Devils cross paths daily in the big leagues.

Look no further than the Chicago Bulls. Anchoring himself down low is Mike Sweetney, a former Hoya, who is averaging 10 points and six rebounds. Playing in the backcourt are two former Blue Devils, Luol Deng (13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds) and Chris Duhon (9.9 points, 5.6 assists). It is fitting that the Bulls’ post presence is represented by a former Georgetown star, while the Duke players call themselves guards. Oh, and backing up Sweetney? Another former Hoya, Othella Harrington.

A former Chicago Bull and Blue Devil is one of the league’s leading contenders for MVP. Elton Brand, now with the Clippers, has taken his game to another level, notching 25.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

Ironically, one of Brand’s toughest competitors for that honor could be Georgetown’s Iverson. Iverson has been a scoring machine, posting 33.2 points per affair, but has also been dishing out assists, at a rate of 7.5 a game. If Iverson’s ’76ers can improve upon their current 18-19 record, look for him and Brand to be right near the top of the MVP voting come June.

The NBA’s blocks per game leader board, long owned by Georgetown’s big men, has been relinquished to the field, but ourning is still swatting shots at an alarming rate. He ranks fifth in the league with 3.1 a game. Sixth? None other than Brand, who averages 2.7 rejections.

Whether it is in the classroom and the admissions office, on the recruiting trails, in head-to-head match-ups or in an NBA arena, both the similarities and battles between Georgetown and Duke are numerous. Both boast rigorous academics, have made similar transitions from relative basketball obscurity to national prominence, and are well represented in the pros.

Tomorrow, however, when the Hoyas and Blue Devils meet at MCI Center, none of that will matter. All that will matter is who comes to play, who steps up and who makes the big shots. On the Hilltop, people are hoping for a throwback to the past, and a Georgetown victory.

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