Georgetown Hoyas (27-5) vs. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
When: Friday, 2:45
Where: Raleigh, N.C.
1. How It Got Here. Founded in 1789 by John Carroll, Georgetown was part of a larger educational effort by the Pope's "Team America" approach to help educate young Catholics in post-Revolutionary War America. Carroll went out to start out other universities, including his namesake in Cleveland, Ohio. The blue and gray clad Hoyas colors were so chosen when the university decided to honor the service of its civil war veterans. Though the school was active in football at the turn of the century (where its motto, "Hoya Saxa!" was coined), the last fifty years the school's sporting prowess has been decidedly basketball related. Ex-NFL commish Paul Tagliabue was a member of the squad in 1962 and former Illinois representative Henry Hyde led the team to the NCAA tournament final in 1943. But those were sporadic successes until the arrival of John Thompson (II) in 1972. The Hoyas made their first tournament under JTII three years later. By 1979, they were tournament regulars. By the mid-80s, the basketball team had most of America fearing for their lives.
2. Lucky or Good? Rick Pitino on the Hoyas this year: "They've been lucky." Have they? The Hoyas needed a three by Roy Hibbert (!) to edge UConn at home by 2 with seconds left on the clock, 72-70; a 64-62 overtime win over 'Cuse on Big Monday where a young and tired well-defended Orange squad didn't score in the last 2 minutes of regulation despite being up five points; a last second shot by WVU at the buzzer was goal tended blocked by Patrick Ewing, Jr. to preserve a 55-54 Hoya win; a bullshit controversial blocking foul with 6 seconds left allowed the Hoyas to escape overtime against Villanova with two Jonathan Wallace free throws and a 55-53 win; and finally, down three at Marquette with 3 seconds left, an idiotic amazing foul call on a Jonathan Wallace three point attempt by Marquette allows the Hoyas to force OT after three made free throws. The Hoyas went on to win, 70-68, where the winning margin was simply a banked three made by Wallace during the overtime. All of the Hoyas losses have been on the road this year and all by 7+ or more points (to Memphis, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville). While there is some truth to Pitino's comments, I'd also like to think that Branch Rickey said it best.
3. Well Guarded Home. The Hoyas 15-0 home record this year could not have come with the support of a strong home court advantage. Not only has the student body rallied around the team, but with the protection of an actual bulldog patrolling the sidelines it has clearly inspired the team to new heights. Clearly, security is important to prevent road teams from stealing our wins. Jack the Bulldog, led by handlers who don "Team Jack" t-shirts for the game, are fan favorites as they patrol the concourses at games, allowing Hoyas large and small to pet and photograph Jack. However, it's not just photos and pampering for the pint-sized pooch. At the 8 minute timeout in the second half of every home game, Jack runs onto the floor and chases (while attempting to bite) a package wrapped with the opposing teams' colors and logos. Naturally, the witty Hoyas in the student section cheer him along with chants of, "Eat that box!"**
** The administration of the Georgetown University would like to take the time to remind you that a marriage certificate, signed by the controlling Catholic diocese, is needed first before said activities can be performed. Thank you. — Christopher Klejdys
MARYLAND-BALTIMORE COUNTRY RETRIEVERS
1. Retriever Fever. Every March, we are presented with a mid-major that you can't help but root for. This year, that team is the UMBC Retrievers. You have the fantastic nickname of "Retrievers." Then, you have the hyphenated university name, which unfortunately sounds like a school that you find advertised on the side of a bus. But don't let the fun names fool you, this team can ball. The Retrievers are 24-8 with an RPI of 89, boasting one of the most balanced scoring attacks in the nation.
2. This Retriever Will Bite Your Face Off. UMBC first caught our attention when they beat defending A-10 champs George Washington back in November, and they haven't let up since. UMBC defeated fellow tournament newbie American and A-10 teams Richmond and La Salle in the preseason, then dominated the America East with a 13-3 mark. They rolled over Hartford 82-65 (not as close as the score appears) to earn their first trip to the Dance in school history.
3. Balanced Dogs. The Retrievers have four players averaging at least 13 ppg, and that doesn't even include one of the most valuable players in 5'8 Jay Greene. Ray Barbosa is the leading scorer for the Retrievers, averaging 16.9 ppg and drilling 84 threes on the season. Not far behind him are big man Carvell Johnson (13.2) and guard Brian Hodges (14.1). A veteran squad with a balanced scoring attack is exactly the kind of team I wouldn't want to face if I'm a fading top seed. — Storming The Floor