Originally created 03/19/01

Maryland, Georgetown finally get chance to meet



BOISE, Idaho -- The NCAA brackets have done what the schools themselves could not: find a time and place for a matchup between Maryland and Georgetown.

After an upset-filled opening round in the West Regional, these two big-time programs who are neighbors - yet strangers on the court - are poised to meet in the round of 16 Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif.

It will be just the second meeting in 21 years between the two best basketball programs near the nation's capital.

"I'm sure Washington, D.C., will not be the same between now and Thursday night," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said. "It will be very exciting."

The teams that played every season but one between 1947-48 and 1979-80 have only played once since, with Maryland winning 84-83 in overtime on Nov. 26, 1993.

But disputes over where to play have scuttled any future meetings. Until now, of course, when the brackets will send both schools about 3,000 miles from home to meet.

"Who is to say why (the schools haven't played)?" Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Each team has a tough conference. We play some local teams. We can't play all the local teams and neither has Georgetown."

That makes this unexpected meeting particularly special for a pair of guards, Maryland's Juan Dixon and Georgetown's Kevin Braswell.

The boyhood pals, who became close when Dixon moved in with Braswell's family briefly after his mother died, have been pushing for an on-the-floor meeting for years.

"Anaheim is a long way from Baltimore, but we've been trying to play against each other since high school," Braswell said. "We just haven't been able to convince our coaches. Now we get a chance.

"It's going to be hard to compete against him. But once you get between the lines you have to forget."

Getting to Anaheim wasn't easy for either team. Eleventh-seeded Georgetown (25-7) needed Nat Burton's buzzer-beater to knock off Arkansas 62-60 in the opening round. Then the Hoyas overcame a partisan crowd and upset-minded Hampton, 76-57.

The third-seeded Terrapins (23-10) had to survive pesky George Mason - also located just a few miles from Maryland's campus - in the first round before winning 83-80.

Then came a much-hyped matchup with Georgia State and former Terps coach Lefty Driesell that Maryland won 79-60.

"It's incredible to get into a situation where there is a separate story with each game you play," Williams said. "But you can't complain. It's so hard nowadays to advance. I think it is underappreciated sometimes. You've seen some big-name basketball programs that didn't make it out of the first round. I'm just thankful to still be here and still be playing."

The Terps have resurrected a season that seemed in dire straits just one month ago. After blowing a 10-point lead in the final minute of a loss to Duke on Jan. 27, Maryland lost four of its next five games and was reeling.

But the Terps have recovered just in time, winning eight of nine games and advancing to the round of 16 for the fifth time in the last eight years.

That's quite a trip from a month ago, when lowly Florida State came to College Park and beat Maryland 74-71 on Feb. 14.

"I was walking out of Cole Field House after the Florida State game and there was a guy standing there and he said, 'Good luck in the NIT,"' said Williams, looking for Maryland's first regional final trip in 26 years. "So it's been an interesting few weeks."

And there promises to be at least one more interesting week left for the Terrapins.