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Purdue, the Big Ten champion, will be more difficult than Marquette. The Boilermakers were invited to the tournament 29 years ago and turned it down, only to see runner-up Indiana win. Now, with perhaps the nation's best shooter in Rick Mount and a strong supporting cast, they intend to make up for almost three decades of self-deprivation. Purdue does not play particularly good defense—Kentucky plays less—but it has quickness and can press effectively, especially when Herm Gilliam is after the man with the ball. Gilliam is the best all-round player on the team and has had a chance to rest his injured ankle the last three games.
Purdue is very deep. In the run-and-gun battle that is sure to develop if it beats Miami of Ohio and goes up against Kentucky, Coach George King will be able to send in four centers in waves against Issel. None of them figures to stop Ol' Toothless, but Kentucky probably will not be able to stop Mount, either, so the score could end up 200-195. If you believe that stuff about Rupp's bench, Purdue should have the edge.
North Carolina, in its third straight NCAA tourney, plays in a strong conference and must be immune to nervousness by now, no matter what team it meets. Many people think the Tar Heels have the best chance against UCLA because they have height to surround Alcindor and can play a stalling game, which in politer circles is known as a "four-corner offense." But they have to reach Louisville first. A serious problem could be the left knee, swollen to grapefruit size, of expert defensive Guard Dick Grubar. Coach Dean Smith has some quick little guards to replace him on defense but no backcourt man who scores as well.
Olympian Charlie Scott, a 6'5" junior, is no problem. Supporting the Black Students Movement at Chapel Hill, despite a lot of critical mail, has not distracted him from his court duties: scoring and using his quick hands to good advantage in Carolina's switching, trapping, pressuring man-for-man defense. Just as effective has been the tall and talented front line: 6'10" Rusty Clark, 6'8" Bill Bunting and 6'10" Lee Dedmon, a sophomore substitute. North Carolina should beat its Thursday opponent, Duquesne, which is tall and muscular, with three 6'9" starters, but no match for the Tar Heels in speed and tournament experience.
Davidson or St. John's, whichever survives their Thursday meeting, will be a different matter. Davidson has been waiting for this one since losing to North Carolina by four points in last year's regional at Raleigh. The Wildcats' Mike Maloy, a junior to match Scott, murdered Villanova in a preliminary tournament game Saturday and is extremely quick for a man 6'7". Doug Cook helps him with the rebounding and Dave Moser and Jerry Kroll hit well from outside. This is Coach Lefty Driesell's best team in nine years at Davidson and might be the one finally to break out of the East and get into the final four.
Davidson and St. John's met at Charlotte earlier this season and the quick, hot-shooting Redmen from New York won in overtime on Bill Paultz's basket at the buzzer. "Both teams are real tough," says Villanova's Howard Porter, who has played against both. "Davidson is stronger inside, but St. John's has the balance, the great shooters."
Great shooters is right, notably John Warren and Joe DePre. The latter can zip past practically anybody if he gets them in a one-on-one situation, which he often did as the Redmen defeated Ivy champion Princeton on Saturday. They gave UCLA a good battle in Madison Square Garden in the Holiday Festival and let it be known they preferred the NCAA to the NIT this year because they wanted another crack at the Bruins. St. John's beat both Davidson and Carolina this season, but its two-point win over the Tar Heels came the night after Villanova had softened up the Southerners in a tough game. It seems too much for St. John's to beat both teams again in a three-day span.
If it comes to Davidson versus North Carolina, Mike Maloy might dash and dart around the bigger Tar Heels and score 30 points or so, but Moser will have his hands full getting the ball up-court to Maloy and Coach Smith can always unleash Scott.
At Manhattan, Kans., Colorado and Colorado State—who did not deign to play each other during the regular season—will meet to decide some local issues but probably not much else, since neither is of championship caliber. Colorado has a terrific sophomore, 6'8" Cliff Meely, who can score and rebound, and a snappy little guard, Gordon Tope, who drives around the Boulder campus in a jeep that comes equipped with a 200-pound St. Bernard, but the Buffaloes are a year or two away from challenging for the top. State built most of its record at home in Fort Collins and was only 5-5 on the road. Colorado should win and move into the Saturday game against the survivor of Texas A&M's contest with the Missouri Valley champ, either Louisville or Drake.
Not since SMU 13 years ago has a Southwest Conference team become one of the final four, and the Aggies probably are not going to change that pattern. Louisville or Drake should beat A&M and Colorado and move on to Freedom Hall, there to be a stepping stone for UCLA, despite the presence of a whizbang guard, Willie McCarter, on Drake and the excellent things Louisville Coach John Dromo has done with a team that was not supposed to go far.