Finally, Metro area basketball fans will get the Georgetown-Maryland game they’ve been craving for over a decade. Except this matchup will pit the Hoyas against the Retrievers from Baltimore County, not the Terps from College Park.

In Friday’s first round NCAA tournament game in Raleigh, N.C., second-seeded Georgetown takes on 15th-seeded University of Maryland Baltimore County, winner of the American East regular season and tournament titles and current owner of college hoops bragging rights in the Old Line State.

Friday’s contest will be the first NCAA tournament appearance in UMBC history and most pundits expect Georgetown to win in a landslide, but the Hoyas are not taking the Retrievers lightly.

“They are one of the top 65 teams in the county, so you can’t overlook them at all,” senior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. said after the brackets were revealed Sunday night.

The game will feature Georgetown’s often methodical ball control-style offense against the fast-paced UMBC offense that will look to get points in transition. Leading the way for the Retrievers are two transfers from James Madison University, senior guard Ray Barbosa and senior forward Cavell Johnson. Barbosa led the team with 16.9 points per game while the extremely athletic 6-foot-8 Johnson averaged 13.2 points per game and 6.8 rebounds. Loaded with speed, the Retrievers, who have won 12 of their last 13 games, will look to run early and often to offset the Hoyas’ superior size, but Ewing said he and his teammates are prepared for their up-tempo style.

“That’s something that we like to do too,” the 6-foot-8 senior said. “We play a lot of transition teams. That’s one of the things about playing in the Big East – we play a lot of different style teams. That helps you get ready for the tournament, and I think that’s why so many Big East teams get in the tournament.”

Senior center and self-proclaimed monster Roy Hibbert, who was named to the Big East all-tournament team, will literally be looking down at the Retrievers all game long as he is five inches taller than any UMBC player who sees considerable minutes. The Retrievers understand the difficulty they will have in stopping Hibbert, but hope that concentrated team defense will be the key to neutralizing such a threat.

At guard, junior Jay Greene does an excellent job running the Terrier offense with a 3.6-to-1 assist to turnover ratio this season. Standing at 5-foot-8 though, Greene will have difficulty against the bigger, more athletic Georgetown guards like senior Jonathan Wallace and junior Jessie Sapp.

For as athletic and rangy as Johnson may be, sophomore forward DaJuan Summers may be all that and more. The 6-foot-7 sophomore was the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer, averaging 11.3 points per game to go along with 5.5 rebounds this season.

While the Hoyas may play in one of the best conferences in college basketball, have an NBA draft lottery pick at center, a senior guard with nerves of steel running the offense and one of the most electrifying sixth men in the country coming off the bench, they’re nothing the UMBC players have not seen before. In fact, many of the players know each other and have played against each other growing up in the D.C. area or in summer leagues.

“I actually know a couple of them,” senior captain Darryl Proctor said. “Playing at the Kenner [summer] league you get to be familiar with the players and everything, so we both know each other real well.”

UMBC Head Coach Randy Monroe knows it will take an impressive performance for his team to stay close with the experienced Hoyas, but the fourth-year head coach emphasized the importance of keeping things simple and sticking to their game plan against a strong opponent like Georgetown.

“We don’t want guys coming into a situation where they feel overwhelmed, feeling like they have to do certain things,” Monroe said. “Our approach is, `This is what we do. We do it very well, and let’s do it at a pace that we’re comfortable doing it at.'”

Only four teams with a No. 15 seed have upset a second seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and none have done so since 2001 when Hampton University upended Iowa State. The Retrievers said they won’t be watching that Hampton game as motivation, but senior captain Jay Greene expects his team to make a statement.

“We just want to show that we belong in this tournament,” he said. “We’re going to prepare for Georgetown and go into the game thinking we’re going to win and that’s how were going to approach it.”

For Monroe, that his team is in the NCAA tournament is a statement in itself.

“You don’t necessarily have to go to a quote, end quote, big name school to be successful, and I think we proved that with the youngsters we have in our program, and the youngsters we have performing for us,” he said.

Georgetown is featured in a Nike commercial with the tagline, “There are no Cinderellas.” On Friday, the Hoyas hope to keep the glass slipper off the upstart UMBC Retrievers.

Tip-off is scheduled for 2:55 p.m. in Raleigh, N.C.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.