If this was the season in which college basketball played beat the clock once too often, the season in which everyone seemed to be trying not to lose rather than to win, the season of lost innocence at UCLA and lost luster at Notre Dame, is it any wonder that the 1982 NCAA tournament began with a terrific assortment of non-happenings?
There was the game that was never played: Kentucky-Louisville, March 13, Nashville. Save your scalped, no doubt, ticket stubs. There was the player who never showed up: Wyoming Forward Bill Garnett, who, after a marvelous season filled with honors, disappeared in the wilds of Utah to be replaced by a look-alike who missed 12 of 17 shots in as sorrowful a two-game tournament as any All-America ever had. There was the upset that was written on the wind, in which DePaul folded in its first game for the third straight year, this time bowing meekly to Boston College 82-75. And there was the Eastern embarrassment that didn't materialize because Alexander Hamilton or James Madison or one of those founding fathers surprised the stockings off the tournament and because three teams from the nationally belittled Big East Conference emerged from Washington, Boston and Philadelphia to gain berths in the sweet 16.
However, the fact that three of the four top seeds survived the tournament's opening weekend may be cause for distress throughout the rest of the draw. Now that North Carolina, Virginia and Georgetown, with six freshmen playing prominent roles, are no longer wet behind their playoff ears, it will take an act of God, or of somebody like Alabama in Birmingham's Oliver Robinson, to keep them from New Orleans and the championship round.
Before North Carolina, No. 1 in the tournament seedings, met James Madison, No. 4 in the presidents, last week in Charlotte, N.C., Kyle Campanelli, 12, asked for and received North Carolina Coach Dean Smith's autograph at court-side. A while later Kyle might have been able to trade it even-up for the autograph of his dad, James Madison Coach Lou Campanelli, because even-up is just about how the unknown Dukes played the Tar Heels before losing 52-50.
Unknown may not be fair. Campanelli and Madison snuck out of the Shenandoah Valley to upset Georgetown in last year's tournament, they upset Ohio State in this year's, and it will be no upset if Campanelli sneaks off to Duquesne or Seton Hall soon. On Saturday he got his Dukes up again, parlaying 12 points each from Linton Townes, Dan Ruland and Charles Fisher to pull within one point of the lead (46-47) with 1:38 to go. Then the Tar Heels' James Worthy, who hadn't scored in the second half, made a characteristic play. From the spread offense he broke back door, took a Jimmy Black pass, made the layup, was fouled and converted the free throw to give Carolina a 50-46 lead. Ultimately Worthy and Sam Perkins combined for 32 points and 14 rebounds, enabling Smith to say jokingly, "That back door play is on page 42 of the basketball book,"
If Campanelli missed that, he hasn't overlooked much else during the six years James Madison has been in Division I. "The Number 1 team couldn't break us," he said tearfully. "The whole country can take their hats off to our Dukes."
In Logan, Utah, Georgetown's freshman Center Pat Ewing didn't doff his hat or his shirt. Because of a recurring cold, Ewing wears a T shirt underneath his uniform top. Young Bill Russell turns into young Marlon Brando. While the extra layer fends off the chills, Ewing's massive wingspan chills enemy shooters. Whether playing human backstop at the base of Georgetown's ferociously aggressive 1-3-1 trap zone press or lurking in the center of the Hoyas' 3-2 zone, Ewing was the main student/athlete in Georgetown's 51-43 victory over Wyoming.
After the Cowboys and Garnett won a sloppy 61-58 game from Southern Cal, Wyoming seemed primed for the upset. But from the outset the quicker Hoyas attacked all over the floor, Garnett appeared in a daze, and Wyoming didn't score for more than three minutes.
Even after Georgetown's star shooter, Sleepy Floyd, went to the bench with four fouls early in the second half, after the Hoyas' offense wilted and after Wyoming's white tornado, Mike Jackson, struck from afar to reduce the margin to 44-41, still the Georgetown D kept coming. In the final minute Eric Smith, the Hoyas' glue, produced four points, two steals and a clinching home run of a pass for a layup, Ewing catapulted for a rebound of a missed jumper, and the Hoyas had passed their first test.
Virginia also passed. Barely. Give the Cavaliers a D—D for the desire of Othell Wilson, who played on one leg and with one painful thigh bruise, and D for the determination of Ricky Stokes, who drilled the two winning free throws in Virginia's 54-51 escape in Indianapolis from the mechanical clutches of Tennessee. Oh yes, and add another D for Ralph Sampson's defense on Dale Ellis, who shot up the Cavaliers until Sampson shut him down. Jeff Jones suggested the move in the huddle and what it did was disrupt the Tennessee tempo—"He made Dale pull the string," said Vol Coach Don DeVoe—wipe out a 10-point deficit and give control of the game to the Cavs.
Not that Virginia looked an easy winner at any time, what with missing 13 of 21 free throws, being outwitted on the bench by DeVoe and outshot from the perimeter. "Our fine tuning didn't come into effect," said Sampson. Whatever that meant, Tennessee got into foul difficulty and the ball went to the Cavs' 7'4" center. The result: four straight Sampson buckets, a 51-51 tie and shortly a Virginia freeze. Stokes got a high-five from Wilson just before he went to the line for his crucial free throws. "Ralph and I have the same initials," the 5'10" Stokes said later. "I can use his monogrammed handkerchiefs, but not his shirts."
In Dallas, meanwhile, Debbie didn't do DePaul, but Davis surely did. That's Dr. Tom Davis, the brainy Boston College coach who concocted yet another way to frustrate the Blue Demons.
"Hope you make it to New Orleans," Furman Coach Eddie Holbrook had said recently to DePaul's Ray Meyer.
"I'll be there, but I'm sure my team won't," Meyer reportedly replied.
What did Ray know and when did he know it? That DePaul was tiptoeing through quicksand with all those narrow escapes in the closing weeks of the season? That the Blue Demons were brimming with announcements of pretournament confidence such' as "This is the third strike" (Tyrone Corbin) and "We've been the big flop" (Bernard Randolph)? Or that Boston College would nail San Francisco and that John Bagley, the best all-purpose guard in America, would be waiting to embarrass his team?
For the third straight year DePaul entered the NCAAs with only one loss and ranked No. 1 in one poll or another. Once...twice...three times a malady. This one was caused by Meyer's confusion over whether BC would hold the ball and his mistaken impression that the Eagles didn't have the talent to stay with DePaul up and down the court. Beep^ beep. Thirty-five DePaul fouls and 26 Bagley points later, Dr. Davis' team had DePressed DePaul and the Midwest Regional was wide open.
Exactly where the tournament championship trophy will wind up should become clearer following the regionals this week at Raleigh, N.C., St. Louis, Birmingham and Provo, Utah.
Whether North Carolina can reach the Final Four for the seventh time under Smith probably depends on the memory and mirrors of the Dean of Delay. If Smith can recall his practice sessions of 10 years ago he may envision his Tar Heels trying to guard one of their own, Bob McAdoo. Remember McAdoo—see him once again all over the floor shooting and rebounding and even passing with alacrity—and Carolina will understand the difficulty of controlling Memphis State's Keith Lee.
In the second round the Tigers showed some ACC tendencies by stalling the ball during the final five minutes of a 56-55 nail-biter with Wake Forest, in which Lee accumulated 18 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and some big clutch plays down the stretch. It took all that and more for Memphis State to advance to play Villanova.
The Wildcats were forced into three overtimes with Northeastern simply because a rolling (Perry) Moss shoots no stones. Moss upset St. Joseph's 63-62 practically by himself, and he nearly upset Villanova by scoring 31 points before John (Bear) Pinone bared his rebounding claws and Eddie Pinckney and Stewart Granger cashed the deciding slams in a 76-72 thriller.
Three of the four teams in Raleigh seem woefully bench-thin to have come this far. However, the fourth, Alabama—which joined the fray after winning 69-68 in a roughhouse YMCA brawl with St. John's—can go both ways: small, with a three-guard lineup, or large. Against Carolina it merely depends on how 'Bama Coach Wimp Sanderson wants to take his poison. If Lee should carry Memphis State past Villanova, the Tigers will be faced with a defensive choice of their own: Stop Worthy or stop Perkins, but not both. Two Keith Lees are better than one.
To get back home to St. Louis, normally sure-handed Missouri turned the ball over 18 times in the first half and squandered a nine-point lead in the second before subduing Marquette 73-69. "We were in the prevent offense," Tiger Coach Norm Stewart said. Losses by DePaul, Tulsa and Arkansas made Mizzou the only seeded favorite left in this bombed-out regional.
The Tigers will find the proceedings plenty hostile, however, if Steve Stipanovich and Marvin McCrary aren't totally healthy. Missouri needs Stipo up front to battle Akeem Olajuwon, Houston's center with the Star Wars name and the 7-foot frame, not to mention defensive specialist McCrary to slow up Rob Williams. Williams sprinted through the Tulsa press for 26 points in a 78-74 fun run. Though Houston may out-talent the universe, Missouri should get by on superior smarts alone.
In the other bracket, Dr. Davis meets Mr. Hartman, Jack by first name, the esteemed mentor at Kansas State, for a coaching masterpiece made in clinic heaven. Hartman held down the pace against Arkansas with his patterned offense and huge front line, and K-State won an elegant struggle 65-64 when the Hogs' Scott Hastings missed a jumper with three seconds left. But BC seems able to go at any pace, and there's simply no way to guard Bagley. Watch him. And watch BC shred the Big Eight—K-State and Mizzou—for the Big East.
"Who will buy?" sang the little orphan, Oliver Twist, in chorus with the other street urchins on the Broadway stage. Who will buy this? That another Oliver, Oliver Robinson of that former basketball orphanage at Alabama in Birmingham, will come out smoking? That the muscular inside tandem of Norman Anchrum and Chris Giles will continue knocking heads? And that Coach Gene Bartow's explosive Blazers will entertain the hometown crowds at Birmingham's Coliseum, upset Virginia and then polish off Louisville to win the Mideast as convincingly as they dethroned defending champion Indiana 80-70.
A lot of attention in Nashville was focused on Middle Tennessee, which got in the middle of the Kentucky-Louisville "Bash in the Nash" by shocking the Wildcats 50-44 before losing to Louisville 81-56. Meanwhile, UAB quietly turned in its best defensive effort of the season while the 6'4" Robinson, an underrated backcourt leader, was celebrating his birthday by lighting up the Hoosiers like candles. He scored 23 points. If ACC whispers that Sampson "shies away" when he is subjected to physical play are true, Anchrum and Giles will make big Ralph positively bashful.
Louisville, with four returning starters from the 1980 national championship team, should finally live up to its potential and overcome Minnesota's 7'3" Randy Breuer and his methodical Gopher compadres, who nearly were stopped up the track Sunday by a UT-Chattanooga choochoo. Minnesota pulled that one out 62-61. But it may be too much to expect Derek Smith, Jerry Eaves and company to defeat Birmingham at Birmingham, where the Blazers have lost only twice in two years.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson certainly didn't relish having his team sent 9,000 miles away from the Potomac and 4,500 feet above sea level as the top seed in the West Regional. But Thompson, who has isolated his scholars from the media while maintaining a McEnroean us-against-the-world mentality, surely is enjoying the privacy of the Utah mountains. He has been shuttling his team from a Salt Lake City hotel to the playing sites at Logan and, this week, Provo. Obviously there weren't any vacancies in Saskatchewan.
The Hoyas are the heavies here, not only because they are geographical interlopers but also because they are an intimidating bunch, brutish on the court (notably Ewing and Point Guard Fred Brown); churlish on the bench, where the coach uses his imposing size (6'10", 300 pounds) to take advantage of referees; and threatening to become more awesome with every game. Dominance breeds unpopularity, and it's no secret to anyone that Thompson has the best athletes in the tournament—and more of them.
For either Fresno State, which nipped West Virginia 50-46, or, more likely, bigger, swifter Oregon State to halt Georgetown's rampage, someone must deal with Ewing and the Hoyas' forbidding defenses. This regional has four of the top five scoring-margin teams in the land. Idaho, whose Brian Kellerman crushed Iowa with a last-second shot that gave the Vandals their first NCAA tournament win, 69-67, is the fourth in this foursome. And they all do it with defense. "We don't want to let the game happen to us," says Fresno Coach Boyd Grant. "But it will take some finessing to beat Georgetown."
The Bulldogs, backed by their renowned Red Wave of boosters and the funniest, sleaziest costumed mascot anywhere, will attempt just that. The Oregon State Beavers—who no less an authority than Bill Walton says "do everything perfect fundamentally"—will attempt it behind the spectacular defense of Lester (The Molester) Conner. Idaho might try it with potatoes. But it will be cause for surprise if any of them succeeds.
Only one team would seem capable of standing in the Hoyas' way to the national championship. And even Carolina may not be finer.