Whether Ray Meyer wins or loses or turns up spinning his jowls on a four-hour cartoon special, the 1984 NCAA basketball tournament has already established itself as a memorable one. James Horace of North Carolina A&T will remember being put on the foul line not by a referee but by a TV announcer. Butch Berry of Oral Roberts will remember dribbling the ball in bounds rather than passing it; perhaps the fact that Berry had swallowed a teammate's contact lens had something to do with it. St. John's Chris Mullin will remember missing a free throw—he did that only once in every 10 attempts all year—with eight seconds to play, after which Temple ended his season. Oklahoma's Wayman Tisdale will remember playing hurt, and being upstaged by a chap named Chapman, as Dayton upset the Sooners. And SMU's Larry Davis will remember falling asleep along the foul lane with 51 seconds to play in a tie game with Georgetown only to awaken as Patrick Ewing swooped inside him, rebounded a missed Hoya free throw and hook-tipped it in to eliminate the frisky Ponies.
Moreover, the 46th annual NCAAs may be recalled as the postseason event in which the ACC lived up to its rep. Four of that conference's five entrants advanced to the round of 16 even as the tournament assumed the look of a family album, what with grandpas, moms, lovers and babies dotting the landscape.
Take Washington coach Marv Harshman. Venerable (read 66 years old), white-haired and only 104 career wins behind Meyer, Harshman kept matching DePaul's DeGramps wrinkle for wrinkle as his Huskies upset the solitary ACC loser, Duke, 80-78. Lois Tarkanian kept flashing her rosary beads when her husband and son, UNLV coach Jerry and captain Danny, as well as the rest of the Runnin' Rebels, required some rejuvenatin' religion. Kentucky's Holly Bankemper, the tournament MVP (most vivid pulchritude), kept cheerleading as her guy, Wildcat guard Jim Master, broke out of a shooting slump. And Keith Dewayne Lee Jr., seven pounds, nine ounces and just seven days old, kept kicking and squealing as his dad led Memphis State to an advantageous position in the draw.
Crying time came early for 37 of the 53 teams, but it was most pronounced at exit polls conducted in Southwestern precincts of Norman, Okla., El Paso, Fayetteville, Ark., and Tulsa and the isolated wards of West Lafayette, Ind. and Durham, N.C. Because Oklahoma, UTEP, Arkansas, Tulsa, Purdue and Duke went out—the Razorbacks most implausibly, losing to Virginia 53-51 in overtime when Othell Wilson's jumper was blocked into the hands of teammate Rick Carlisle, who scored from the corner with four seconds left, phooey-pig!—what we have left are a plethora of rematches, both imminent and possible, in this week's regionals in Atlanta (East), St. Louis (Midwest), Los Angeles (West) and Lexington, Ky. (Mideast). The final rounds, starting with Midwest vs. East and West vs. Mideast in the semis, are scheduled for—would't you just know it?—April Fool's weekend in Seattle.
In St. Louis, rematch city, the square-offs are Houston vs. Memphis State and DePaul vs. Destiny. Take Destiny and give the five. Seriously, there may not be a dry eye in the house if basketball's ancient Meyerner concludes his wonderful career here. But can anyone believe the Blue Demons will allow their beloved old guru to exit at the hands of Wake Forest? Nevertheless, Houston, Memphis State and, yes, Destiny, are all more talented than DePaul, which Meyer says is his most talented team ever. No wonder the Demons yukked it up before a 75-61 defeat of Illinois State in the sub-regional at Lincoln, Neb.
The Demons got 20 points from Tyrone Corbin and simply outmuscled the Redbirds, who had given DePaul fits in the regular season. This was a significant step for such a young crew—freshman and sophs contributed 54% of the Demons' points and 57% of their rebounds—even if it was the 1,077th game for their 70-year-old coach. But, said future coach Joey Meyer, "it was the most important one." Not only did DePaul have to contend with memories of its first-round failures in the three previous NCAAs, it also knew that the next loss would be Ray's last. "Winning's much more important now; when I change clothes in the locker room, I realize it may be for the last time," said Coach. "Every victory is like a reprieve. We win again, I get another week."
Either Houston's Akeem Abdul Olajuwon or Memphis State's Keith Lee should do the awful deed in the Midwest final. Wake Forest, which snuffed slow Kansas, has a quick, smart backcourt and the ACC's most-unknown good player in center Anthony Teachey, but the Demon Deacons are a mirror image of the Blue Demons, who happen to do all the little things a little better. Though guards Jerry McMillan and Kenny Patterson are erratic shooters, Meyer's boys hit the boards with a vengeance and cover on defense like wildfire. The incentive of winning one for the retiree spurred UCLA and Marquette to championships in 1975 and '77. Will the pattern prevail?
Not if the father of Keith Lee Jr. or the brothers of Phi Slamma Jamma have anything to say about it. Lee accumulated 55 points and 27 rebounds in Memphis State's 92-83 and 66-48 demolition jobs on Oral Roberts and Purdue, respectively.
And though Memphis State lost to Houston 70-63 in the regional semis last year, Tiger coach Dana Kirk now has a rejuvenated front line—frosh monster William Bedford and all-name Baskerville Holmes support Lee—as well as more depth. But can Lee forget the whipping Olajuwon laid on him in their previous meeting, when the Dream had 21 points and six blocks? Does Memphis have anyone to stop the Cougars' fine wing shooter, Michael Young? The guess is no and no.
Akeem has been a walking foul all season but for stretches he's stunning on defense. In the Cougars' 77-69 defeat of upstart Louisiana Tech at Memphis, Olajuwon took Karl (the Mailman) Malone's best deliveries and air-expressed them practically to Graceland. Return to Sender. Assuming a Houston victory over the Tigers, Houston vs. DePaul could well be decided on who misses the last free throw.
At the sub-regional in Charlotte, top seed North Carolina and its hydra-headed star, Sammy Mike Jordkins, had their hands full with a 6'5" Temple guard whose game and name left the Tar Heels in a quandry. Remember last year's tournament, when Carolina's Sam Perkins wondered what league Georgia was from and then wound up eating dawg food? You think Perkins could even guess what planet somebody named Terence Stansbury was from? St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca called Stansbury "that Strawberry kid" before Stansbury took advantage of that Mullin missed free throw, dribbling three times from mid-court and swishing a 25-footer to give Temple a 65-63 victory. Then Tar Heel coach Dean Smith referred to Stansbury as "Salisbury," which is the name of a town in North Carolina as well as a cheap steak. All Berrybury did then was score 18 points in the first half on the Heels, whose 15 turnovers didn't help their cause. After intermission, however, Perkins and Michael Jordan asserted themselves by combining for 25 points, while 6'8" Matt Doherty took over the defensive chores on Stansbury, holding him to eight points, and freshman guard Kenny Smith passed and defended with pre-broken wrist confidence. The result was a 77-66 wearing down of the benchthin Owls.
Speaking of benches, if Richmond had had one to back up a starting contingent that played five games in nine days with barely a chance to rest, the Spiders rather than Indiana might be playing North Carolina in Atlanta. Those pop-music aficionados who were dying to see Auburn's bulbous Charles Barkley take on coach Bobby Knight's Indiana team—headline: BOY GORGE BUSTS UP CULTURE CLUB—were thwarted when Richmond upset Auburn 72-71 as the Round Mound of Rebound was outplayed by the Lean Stringbean Machine, Richmond's 6'7", 190-pound sophomore John Newman. The Spiders weren't through, either; they trapped Indiana in an impenetrable web until the final three minutes when the Hoosiers shook off the absence of 7'2" Uwe Blab (on fouls) and point guard Stew Robinson (foot injury) and advanced on freshman Steve Alford's foul shots with a 75-67 win.
Meanwhile, at the other sub-regional in New Jersey, Lunacons were in vogue, those being the strange creatures attending a science-fiction convention at the same hotel in which the Arkansas and Virginia Commonwealth teams were staying. "Weird space cadets with antennas and capes," said Hog coach Eddie Sutton, who considered moving his team out. Sutton almost started a war of the words when he compared ACC teams to his own Hogs. "They can all shoot, but we play harder than they do," he said. "It's like they perspire and we sweat." In a pig's eye. Nobody is more savage on the court than Virginia's indefatigable Wilson, a defensive Lunacon, who plays D as if armed with an antenna and a cape.
Wilson was merely preparing for his next challenge, freshman Pearl Washington of Syracuse. Washington's bumping and grinding, along with Rafael Addison's 24 points, paced the Orangemen past pesky Virginia Commonwealth 78-63, but Virginia comma Ralph could be a different tale. Hold it. Ralph's gone? In truth, the something-to-prove Cavs have thrived on Sampson's graduation and a certain non-respect to become the best 19-11 team around. Virginia plays with intelligence and a new center with the all-tournament name of Olden Polynice. If the Cavs can force Syracuse into a half-court game and Wilson can stop the Pearl, they should emerge to meet the winner of the North Carolina-Indiana coaches' clinic.
The last time Knight and Smith—the only two mentors both to play on and coach national championship teams—clashed was in the '81 NCAA finals, when Perkins, a freshman, scored but 11 points and the Hoosiers' Isiah Thomas turned the game around. This time Jordan should turn the screw on Indiana, and Perkins will surely recognize Carolina's possible East final adversary. The Tar Heels have already routed both Syracuse and Virginia, and Sammy Mike and North Carolina should win the region going away.
For all those who wrote in asking: No, John Thompson and the Georgetown Hoyas didn't prepare for the Western sub-regional in Pullman, Wash, by staying in Moscow, Idaho, where they were booked. They stayed in Spokane, a mere 75 miles away. This week's lodgings? "Relative to L.A., Spokane would be a good place," said Thompson. However, according to another Georgetown spokesman, the team actually will hole up "somewhere north of Malibu." As who, with good sense, would not?
The Hoyas were the only team with a bye in the West to survive, primarily because Ewing made a game-winning play that saved the reputation of his coach, whose strategy up to that time was nonsensical. When, early on, SMU's brutish 7-foot John Koncak stood up to Ewing and slam-dunked on him—give your face to Koncak; when Georgetown's shooters couldn't dent the Mustangs' 2-3 zone; when smart, patient SMU grabbed a 24-16 halftime lead for coach Dave Bliss, Thompson apparently decided that if he could ever gain any semblance of control he would hold the ball. Which is what happened when the Hoyas tied the game at 26 with 13:25 left. That's right—SMU, two points in 6:35. Thompson's ignorance was O.K. to Bliss. "We wanted to shorten the game; they helped," Bliss said. "If there were 180 great athletic plays to be made, Georgetown would make most of them." Ewing needed only one.
The Hoyas swept to a six-point advantage, 32-26...but SMU, after scoring only one basket in 13:48, tied it again at 34. The Mustangs gained possession with 2:04 left...but SMU's Reginald (Shocking) Pink traveled in the lane. Georgetown took advantage of the Pink slip...but Hoya guard Gene Smith missed the fateful free throw. So what? In the Georgetown huddle Ewing had said to his mates, "We're not going home, and that's it." When Smith clanked one off the iron, Ewing muscled in front of Davis, ascended and converted the uncontested tip. "He leaned inside, then 360'd left, a great, great move," said Davis. Maybe Davis dreamed it.
"I don't think Patrick could describe what he did," said Thompson after the 37-36 victory. "Sometimes Russell could not, either." Thompson meant Bill, not Nipsey, but never mind. The prospects remain frightening. If the Oakland Raiders invented sportshorror, the Hoyas have adapted it to the leafy groves. Georgetown rampaged through the '82 West Regional, and to paraphrase the immortal words of a guy from the Hoyas' neighborhood, Ronald Reagan, there they go again!
But wait. Might this week be different? Georgetown's next foe, UNLV, which U-hauled UTEP out of the tournament 73-60, showed no fear in losing a two-pointer to the Hoyas in December. The Rebs are accustomed to Ewing now, and if they find a way to overcome the Georgetown press and free up Spoon James, Ed Catchings and Richie Adams for open shots, there's a chance. Adams is from Fort Apache, the Bronx, for godsakes! Circle the wagons!
Another Georgetown decision would send the Hoyas against the winner of Dayton-Washington, which is to say the winner of Roosevelt Chapman-Detlef Schrempf. Chapman was merely the player of the week, with 29 points in Dayton's 74-66 win over LSU and a career-high 41 in an 89-85 upset of Oklahoma. The 6'4" Brooklyn-born senior swingman soared so high on his change-of-direction drives that Oklahoma's huge inside defenders must have wondered if this Flyer was wearing a jet-propelled space pack. When asked if he was looking forward to meeting Oklahoma's Tisdale, Chapman blurted, "Oh yes, we're going to see who's the real All-America." Tisdale proved he was real, indeed, by scoring 36 points against Dayton, even though he strained his left Achilles tendon in the second half. But for all Chapman's and Tisdale's heroics, Schrempf, the 6'9" lever from Leverkusen, West Germany, is the closest thing to a one-man gang in the tournament. His 30 points against Duke was a mere Schrempf cocktail before the main dish: his near steal at the end that wasted four critical seconds of the six Duke had in which to score the tying bucket. Instead Washington, which shot .778 in the second half, prevailed 80-78. Would the Huskies be cowed by Georgetown? They don't call Schrempf and 7-foot center Christian Welp the "Doktors von Dunk" for nossing, dumbkopf! But Schrempf has to attack the hoop, play all 40 minutes, do everything. "If he goes to the bench, our offense goes with him," says Harshman. You got it now. Washington is Indiana State 1979 all over again.
Kentucky's toughest game on the road to Seattle may be the one that wasn't played. That would have been in the sub-regional, against Alabama-Birmingham in Birmingham. But when Brigham Young pounded UAB 84-68, Kentucky needed only to defeat one team it had already beaten before heading home to Lexington, where the Wildcats may have to face two more teams they've already beaten to make it to the Final Four. The NCAA sun shines bright on my old....
BYU, which lost to the Cats 93-59 on Dec. 17, got next ups on March 17. Boom, 93-68! "We could beat them," said BYU's Devin Durrant after Kentucky's imposing front line of Kenny (Sky) Walker, Sam Bowie and Melvin (The Dipper) Turpin—Sky Sama Dippa—scored 50 points. "I just don't know how many games it would take." Wildcat coach Joe B. Hall pointed out that a Kentucky frolic in Rupp Arena shouldn't be a foregone conclusion inasmuch as the home team had lost its last two tournament games there, to Duke in the 1980 NCAAs and to Clemson in the 1979 NIT. Of course, back then the Wildcats didn't have quickie Dicky Beal, the 5'11" lightning bug who fires up his sometimes lackadaisical teammates.
The last time Kentucky looked so dominating might have been opening day at Rupp, when the Wildcats blistered their old Interstate 64 buddies from Louisville 65-44. Well, guess who's coming to dinner. It's another marvel of the age that having played only twice in 24 years, Kentucky and Louisville—counting their NCAA game last March—will now meet for the third time in 12 months. Enough already. After that initial embarrassment, the Cards of coach Denny Crum lost nine more games, including one to Chaminade. Now, that's embarrassment. Yet when Louisville's Milt Wagner drained a twisting J with five seconds left to foil an astonishing Tulsa comeback—down 15, Hurricane guards Ricky Ross and Steve Harris scored 35 second-half points to pull Tulsa into a tie—the Cardinals won 69-67 and reached the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in seven years.
It would be folly to pick Louisville to go further, yet stranger things have happened. (R.I.R Jimmy Valvano.) What's more likely is that the Cards may tear up Kentucky so physically and emotionally that the Cats could have little left for whoever remains. Will that be Illinois, which like Louisville staggered in the sub-regional, beating Villanova 64-56 in a lackluster game? The Fighting Illini lost to Kentucky by only two points in December in Champaign, but the suspicion is that while the Wildcats have improved, shallow Illinois hasn't.
The more probable Kentucky regional final opponent is Maryland, which has the most underrated player in the land, Len Bias, and is directed by everybody's favorite lefthander, Charles G. ("Ah kin coach") Driesell. What has emerged in recent weeks from College Park is a loose (finally) hand on the reins of a firecracker-hot team, which is on a roll. The Terps also have recent history in their corner: Remember, the last two teams to win the ACC tournament also won the NCAAs. All of that, coupled with Maryland's stunning 102-77 sub-regional blowout of West Virginia in which the Terps shot .667, bodes well for Lefty in Lexington.
"Maryland's front line is as big and strong as hell. They can ring your bell," said Mountaineer tough guy and poet Lester Rowe. Along with the 6'8" Bias, that trio includes Herman Veal, a 6'6" defender extraordinaire, and 6'9" center Ben Coleman, who is mean, mobile and just Barkley-ish enough to give Turpin nightmares.
If Maryland can hold Kentucky to a draw in the paint, the Cats' backcourt would have to shoot well from outside and/or stop the Terps' whirling transition game, which is under the whip of 6'5" freshman Keith Gatlin. But Kentucky's talented Walker is the only Wildcat who unfailingly runs the whole floor either way on the break, and he may have a hard time shaking Veal's cutlet coverage. A smooth, under-control Gatlin, for his part, is capable of shredding the Cats' fortifications. In last year's tournament Maryland was forced to play Houston at Houston, and the prospect of facing Kentucky at Kentucky has already caused Lefty to howl. "Ridiculous," he says. Then, in the same breath: "But Rupp Arena can't be any tougher to play at than at North Carolina, at Duke, at N.C. State or at Clemson." Awwww-right, Lefthander.
Maryland may be the one team capable of preventing a replay of the 1982 Final Four when North Carolina, Georgetown, Houston and a team from Kentucky (in that instance, Louisville) contributed to a wondrous spectacle down in Louisiana's Superdome. Whether it's a capital rumble between Maryland and Georgetown in the Kingdome semis next week or a levitation duel between Olajuwon and Jordan, or whatever, Seattle will be hard pressed to match those doings in New Orleans. Then again, Ray Meyer could turn up. Old coaches never really retire. Every championship is like a reprieve.