Between the Lines: A taste of what D.C. is missing

A season-opening loss to the Hoyas on GW’s home court, which will likely keep the women’s basketball team out of the Top 25 for some time, is like losing and then getting slapped in the face a few times. That much was evident in the exasperated look on coach Joe McKeown’s face Friday night.

“Those last six minutes were torture,” he said, shaking his head as he walked out of the post-game press conference.

But for all the things that went wrong, one thing was very right about Friday’s game. Actually, 1,532 things.

That’s how many fans turned out for the game, a Smith Center attendance total surpassed in only two women’s basketball games in the past two years.

And while that is partially a reflection of GW’s enthusiasm for an expected NCAA Tournament team, the fact that it was GW and Georgetown drew even the most casual observers to the arena. Friday’s fans were loud and attentive to every play in what turned out to be a great game to watch. Even the fans in the alumni section, who usually cheer like they’re at a golf tournament, showed some signs of life.

“The crowd was great,” McKeown said. “I’ve been here 15 years, and it’s always a fun game (with Georgetown) … We’ve been the dominant program in this area, but they’ve played well against us.”

So considering the excitement generated by the Georgetown Shuttle Series on the women’s side, one can only lament the fact that someone doesn’t make this happen in men’s basketball.

Local rivalries are good for college basketball. They’re good for the fans and they’re good for the schools involved. Just look north to Philadelphia, where the tradition of the Big Five continues to make for good local rival games year after year.

The closest thing to a local basketball showcase in Washington is the upcoming BB&T Classic, which includes just two area teams, GW and Maryland, and two other teams from around the country. If this were a truly local event, Georgetown and American would replace the two outsiders.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That would require Georgetown being willing to play GW, let alone Maryland. And since John Thompson and Patrick Ewing put the Hoyas in the national spotlight in the 1980s, that hasn’t been the case.

“I think (current Georgetown coach) Craig Esherick is just following suit,” GW Assistant Athletic Director Dom Perno said. “The difference between us and them is no longer what it used to be, but I don’t think they see it that way … I know we would play them.”

For a while, the common perception was that Georgetown was so much better than other local teams that it had too little respect to gain and too much media attention to lose in competing with them. Now, 22 years after the last Colonials-Hoyas men’s basketball game, perhaps playing GW would be conceding the obvious for Georgetown – that the Hoyas are now just one of a handful of local teams that can all compete with each other and cannot compete with Maryland.

All speculation aside, though, what we can be certain of is that renewing this rivalry would be a good thing for both schools. And in a city that is known for being devoid of passionate basketball fans, turning the BB&T Classic into an annual grudge weekend among area colleges would draw the local attention that neither GW nor Georgetown is getting right now.

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