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This team lost its best offensive player under 7 feet tall (Sleepy Floyd), its best defensive player under 7 feet tall (Eric Smith) and its meanest player under 7 feet tall (Ed Spriggs). Its best all-around player under 7 feet tall (Fred Brown) is likely to be out of the lineup until at least mid-December recovering from knee surgery. Sound dismal?

No, not really. That's because Patrick Ewing, who spent the summer working on Capitol Hill as Senator Robert Dole's best-rebounding 7-foot page ever, is back. Ewing's presence alone makes the Hoyas, runners-up to NCAA champion North Carolina last season, capable of challenging for the title. "People don't seem to realize that having Patrick isn't everything," says Coach John Thompson. "But it's a helluva start, isn't it?" Isn't it, though? Ewing may be college basketball's fiercest big defender since Bill Russell, and he's capable of scoring more than the 12.7 points he averaged last season.

The Hoyas don't have to worry about replacing Floyd's 16.7 average as much as other teams would. Ewing helps them win with defense, as they did last season when they held teams to 41.9% shooting from the field, second lowest in the country. "That's what Patrick is all about," says Brown. "We can cheat on defense because he's back there."

When he's able to play, Brown will probably be the most important cheater as he inherits Eric Smith's role of checking the opposition's top-scoring guard or forward. That's got to look easy after what he's been through the last eight months: surgery on his right knee for tendinitis and trying to live down his errant pass in the NCAA final that may have cost Georgetown the game. "I never knew I was so nationally known until I did that," says Brown.

Until Brown returns to play either point guard or small forward, Georgetown's lineup could be primarily sophomores and freshmen. That's not quite as bad as it sounds because Ewing, Swingman Anthony Jones and Strong Forward Bill Martin played a lot last year. Jones could become Thompson's big scorer, though he needs work on his defense. Martin should give Ewing the help he needs on the boards. The main man among the freshmen is David Wingate, who at 6'5" can play small forward but would probably be most effective as a shooting guard. Another freshman guard possibility is Horace Broadnax, who was injured slightly this summer when the car he was driving collided with a train. That adequately describes the way most of Georgetown's opponents will feel after they collide with Ewing.