If it's Tempe, Ariz., this must be DePaul, as in DeRailed. If it's Greensboro, N.C., this must be Iowa, as in Injuries. If it's Ogden, Utah, this must be Clemson, as in Claim Jumpers. Especially, if it's Loyal Marymartin and Acorn Street—make that Loyola Marymount and Alcorn State—what we've got here must be another NCAA basketball tournament.
Sure enough, folks, flaunting geography, logic and fairness to all—or at least to those seeded teams outside the inviolable boundaries of Fayette County, Ky.—here came the elephantine NCAAs last week, all skillion sites, zillion teams and lebenty-leben thousand players worth, to gladden the hearts of expansionists everywhere.
This was the year the NCAA's nine-man selection committee promised big and bold things. A 48-team field. Balanced regionals—i.e., the best clubs, record- and schedule-wise, scattered throughout the land and seeded according to past performances. Yet the committee's placing of teams managed to offend just about every section of the country and produce the following:
•Georgetown was seeded third in the East behind two teams, Syracuse and Maryland, it had already defeated. "What a joke," said Hoya Coach John Thompson.
•St. John's and Ohio State, both seeded, were sent away from their home regions and wound up having to play Purdue and Arizona State, respectively, on the Boilermakers' and Sun Devils' inhospitable home courts. Ohio State survived; St. John's didn't.
•Most absurd of all, No. I DeServing DePaul was banished to the Arizona desert more than 1,800 miles from its Mideast territory and lost to UCLA, while Kentucky, which was beaten in the SEC tournament finals, was permitted to stay in state last weekend and, after a second-round 97-78 victory over Florida State, to play at home this weekend in the Mideast Regional at Lexington.
Even usually jovial Lamar Coach Billy Tubbs was angry. His men had faced no fewer than 11 tournament-bound teams this season, but a committee member judged Lamar's schedule only the 77th toughest in the land and the Beaumont, Texas school was shuttled out of the Midwest and into the West. The Cards won twice anyway, over Weber State and Oregon State. "Next year we'll schedule the Lakers," Tubbs said.
The pros would be well advised to stay out of the Mideast Regional, which contains three consensus All-America players, two consensus former No. 1 teams and one coach whose straw stirs the consensus drink. Bobby who?
Duke has defeated Kentucky, while Kentucky has defeated Indiana and Purdue, who have defeated each other, but here they all are again. The site of this weekend's Mideast games, Kentucky's home court, gives the advantage to the Wildcats, if only they can figure out who they'll be playing. Will it be the embarrassed Duke that lost five of seven at the end of the regular season? Or the intense Duke that rampaged through the ACC tournament and whipped deliberate Penn 52-42 in last week's second round?
The Blue Devils are a schizoid's delight, having lost their coach—Bill Foster, who will take over at South Carolina—and found their soul at about the same time. But even equipped with the same enthusiasm that characterized their rush to the NCAA finals two years ago, Mike Gminski, Gene Banks & Co. can't be expected to continue their valiant comeback against the deeper, more versatile Wildcats.
Kentucky's backcourt leader, Kyle Macy, may be the smartest player in the tournament, and he directs waves of able bodies, for example, 7'1" Sam Bowie, streak-shooting senior Jay Shidler, senior defender LaVon Williams. Bowie played Gminski to a draw in their first meeting back on Nov. 17, and now he is much improved, "doing things that deny human expectation," according to his coach, Joe Hall.
Inhuman was the word for Purdue's Joe Barry Carroll in the early rounds as he got 69 points and 25 rebounds to dazzle the visiting Eastern press, with whom he refused to speak after victories over LaSalle (90-82) and St. John's (87-72). "The atom bomb," Redmen Coach Lou Carnesecca called Carroll.
But now Joe Barry must face Indiana. In two meetings this season Purdue and Indiana split home victories, and Carroll missed 18 of 25 shots and scored only 18 points. If their inside bomb is not ticking, the Boilermakers' outside shooting often is a dud, which could turn this intra-Big Ten, intrastate rivalry into a rout and propel the Hoosiers into another rematch with Kentucky.
The gag in Bloomington is that the draw was rigged by Jose D. Silva of the Puerto Rican police force—you gringos, of course, remember Jose?—but if anyone can stop the 'Cats in Rupp Arena, it's Bobby Knight-coached Indiana, with the resurrected Mike Woodson and the multitalented Isiah Thomas. In the teams' December meeting, freshman Thomas fouled out late, at which point Macy took over for a 69-58 Kentucky victory. But both teams are more settled now, and this could be the key game of the tournament. Give the edge to Indiana.
The power and the glory of the Big Ten swept into the East Regional, too, where the best trio in the territory will be joined at Philadelphia by a dangerous floater, Coach Lute Olson's Iowa team. The immaculate, silver-haired Olson is right out of the shirt ads, but his Hawkeyes are barely out of the hospital. Kenny Arnold and Bob Hansen are playing with broken hands. Ronnie Lester is just back from knee surgery. Last week Steve Krafcisin came down with stomach flu. Still, the Hawkeyes shut down another Hawkeye (Whitney of North Carolina State) in Greensboro as Reserve Forward Vince Brookins played strong defense and added seven baskets without a miss in the second half of a pullaway 77-64 win.
Without star Guard Lester, Iowa was 8-7. With him, the Hawkeyes are 13-1, counting and inspired. Nevertheless, Iowa depends on heavy, full-court defensive pressure from basically seven men—a weakness that its next opponent, Syracuse, can exploit.
Just how deep Coach Jim Boeheim can dig into the Orange roster was proved against Villanova when as quickly as the Louie and Bouie Show closed—Louie Orr and a foul-plagued Roosevelt Bouie combined for 13 points—the Danny and Santi Show opened. Danny Schayes came off the bench to contribute a dozen points, and freshman Erich Santifer scored 29 more in a 97-83 Syracuse victory. The performance may have halted a Syracuse slump, but Bouie's tendinitis-afflicted leg may be an insurmountable liability in a matchup against the Maryland-Georgetown winner.
The Terps and Hoyas had to overcome substantial deficits against Tennessee and Iona, respectively, to set up their battle for the bragging rights to the District of Columbia. This is another rematch, natch, but because Maryland Center Buck Williams missed the Terps' December loss and because Albert King had not fully displayed his credentials as the best all-round player in the land, might there be a different outcome?
Not really. In Craig (Big Sky) Shelton, Georgetown has an underrated cornerman. In John Duren and Eric (Sleepy) Floyd, the Hoyas have an ideal back-court. The 6'10", 300-pound Thompson appreciates the value of size and stamina. The Hoyas have won 14 straight by alternating three centers, who will make life miserable for Williams, and by pressing all over in the same numbers and with the same urgency shown by lobbyists storming Capitol Hill. Lefty Driesell's Maryland is the best transition team left in the NCAAs—Greg Manning, the Spider Boy, cracks the whip—but when the shallow Terps foul, they are in trouble. In the Philly primary, here's a vote for Georgetown.
In the Midwest, Louisville's Denny Crum resented the fact that LSU was seeded ahead of his Cardinals, but he recovered from the snub quickly enough to make an incredible coaching move with a second-round game against Kansas State on the line. What Crum did was insert Tony Branch, who had taken all of 29 shots on the year, for the fouled-out Darrell Griffith and order a twisting, leaning, off-balance 15-footer by Branch that kaaanged off the rim and fell into the basket to win the overtime game, 71-69. Ah, genius.
This has been, in truth, Crum's best coaching year. Louisville's lack of height has been overcome with muscle (rebounders Rodney McCray, Derek Smith and one-thumb Wiley Brown), hustle (the maniacal Roger Burkman) and Griffith, whose new, restrained on-court personality has toned down whatever desires his teammates had to continue the Cardinals' Doctors of Dunk image. Zone-breaking shooter Poncho Wright vowed long ago that "the Ville [Louisville] is going to the Nap [Indianapolis, site of the finals]."
Texas A&M, which scored an astounding 25 points in the second overtime of a 78-61 upset of North Carolina, stands in the way. More specifically, the A&M Wall—6'11" Rudy Woods, 6'8" Vernon Smith and 6'6" Rynn Wright—blocks the way with the stingiest defense in the tournament.
Louisville has been vulnerable to strong, inside players, provided the opposition can break the Cards' vaunted 1-2-2 zone press. That places this game in the hands of the Aggies' erratic Guard David Britton, who was brilliant against the Tar Heels but whose shots and passes have scattered the ushers elsewhere.
Purely on discipline, Louisville should advance to get its crack at LSU, assuming the boys from the Bayou happen to notice that Missouri hardly has any players left. Thin but disciplined Mizzou received surprising support from 7'2" sub Tom Dore in a 61-51 victory over San Jose State and from emergency fill-in Mark Dressler—32 points!—in an 87-84 shocker of Notre Dame. With everybody collapsing around freshman Center Steve Stipanovich, the Tigers also are shooting at an NCAA-record pace—57%. But the team can be overpowered physically and out-rushed on the fast break, a stratagem foreign to Big Eight teams.
Meanwhile LSU, having turned back the Braves of Alcorn—"There were a lot of brothers out there," said Rudy Macklin—presents for the Midwest's listening and dancing pleasure: Macklin and Greg (Cookieman) Cook inside, Ethan Martin outside and DeWayne (Astronaut) Scales in orbit everywhere.
Coach Dale Brown's high-powered Bengals are fast, strong, deep (take a bow, Willie Sims), adaptable and hungry. They should hurt Missouri every which way, and if Jupiter is aligned with Mars and the Astronaut is under a modicum of control on his turnaround jumpers, they should defeat Louisville.
Which leaves only the West, where Ohio State's 89-75 thrashing of Arizona State, with Center Herb Williams and Guard Kelvin Ransey merging for 50 points, enabled the Buckeyes to become the region's only seeded team to advance.
Clemson-Lamar sounds like a guitar player down at the country-and-western tavern, but it's the size-against-speed matchup that resulted after an underdog-day afternoon in the Wasatch Range. Clemson, which finished a solid fourth in the ACC because it had only one league victory on the road, won two games from Utah teams in Ogden and immediately applied for Beehive State citizenship. Lamar, on the other hand, simply got far enough ahead of Weber State and Oregon State so that when B. B. Davis, Mike Olliver—that's two l's, as in basketball—and the other Cards began to fold, it was too late for the opposition.
Ohio State should win this regional. But then DePaul should have won this regional. DePaul? Beloved old Ray Meyer warned the Blue Demons that their 26-1 record shouldn't swell their heads. That Mark Aguirre and the rest couldn't just turn it on when they had to. That they weren't all that great. Nobody listened. They'd beaten UCLA once; why shouldn't they do so again?
Because under the calm, smart tutelage of Larry Brown, UCLA's Kiki (Vandeweghe) and the Kids have grown up. Slew Sanders, the former forward and new center, is quick and tough. Rocket Rod Foster may be basketball's fastest human. Hardly terrified, the Bruins controlled the tempo from the beginning with James Wilkes harassing Aguirre while the Muffin Man looked disinterested. When Aguirre finally aroused himself and DePaul rallied to a 67-67 tie, UCLA held fast and converted foul shots, 10 of them, to win 77-71.
Now the Bruins remain as one of the few obstacles preventing Indianapolis from turning into just another Big Ten reunion. Whoever thought anybody would be rooting for little old UCLA to save the NCAA tournament from somebody else's clutches.