Colonials prepare for tough opponents in BB&T Classic

The closest the GW men’s basketball team will get to hosting a major tournament this year is the BB&T Classic this weekend at the MCI Center, Georgetown University’s home court.

The Hoyas won’t be there, but three other top teams – the University of Maryland, and DePaul and Stanford universities will.

The Classic, formerly known as the Franklin National Bank Classic, is a fund-raiser for impoverished D.C. children. But for the players, it’s a chance to play two top-tier collegiate teams, and for Maryland, it’s a chance to exact a bit of revenge.

Last year, GW upset a No. 19 Terrapin team to win the Classic. This year an upset would be quite a feat for GW, which will face No. 2 Maryland or No. 5 Stanford regardless of whether it wins or loses against DePaul Sunday at 4 p.m.

“We’re not whole yet,” GW head coach Tom Penders said. “(Antxon) Iturbe is out . and Yegor is still hurting. We’ll play hard, though.”

In the first round, GW begins its defense of the title against an unranked but dangerous DePaul team. The Blue Demons (4-1) dress a young squad, but feature what many call one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. The Blue Demons start three freshmen that hail from inside Chicago’s city limits, including 6-9 forward Lance Williams, 6-7 swingman Bobby Simmons and 6-6 forward Quentin Richardson, who is averaging 20 points and more than 12 rebounds per game. DePaul is in the midst of a four-game winning streak against weaker opposition, its only loss coming in its opener at nationally ranked University of New Mexico.

GW’s task will get no easier Monday, when it will face either Maryland or Stanford in the consolation game at 6 p.m. or in the championship game at 8:30 p.m.

The Terps (7-0) have steamrolled their competition this season behind seniors Laron Profit and Terrell Stokes and junior Steve Francis. At 6-10 and 265 pounds, senior center Obinna Ekezie is an intimidating force under the basket.

“Maryland’s a great team,” Penders said. “This team is probably the best and deepest team (Maryland) Coach (Gary) Williams has ever had. They have great defense and are going to be hard to beat.”

GW also would have its hands full with Stanford. All five starters return from a team that reached the “Final Four” including a 7-0 center and one of the nation’s best point guards. Center Tim Young and guard Arthur Lee lead the Cardinal into the BB&T Classic after a shaky performance at the Preseason NIT. Stanford (6-1) suffered a close call against St. John’s University and a loss to the University of North Carolina

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