In the Midwest Regional at Manhattan, Kans., Drake's idea was to get the ball to Guard Willie McCarter. The strategy worked for a victory over Colorado State 84-77. McCarter, maneuvering for one-on-one situations outside and hitting regularly from 15 to 20 feet out, scored 21 points. Coach Jim Williams tried to slow things down midway in the second half after his Colorado State Rams, still very much in the game, got into foul trouble. But Drake Coach Maurice John countered with a full-court man-to-man press, which got the tempo back up to Drake's liking.
The Bulldogs like a fast tempo in the locker room, too, which is why Dolph Pulliam, ace defensive forward, takes his tape recorder and 30 minutes of tapes wherever the team goes. "We've won our conference and our regional and so we think we have a right to demand respect," said Pulliam over the din of the music. "If they don't give it to us they'd better look out. I can't think of a better way of getting our 13th straight than by beating UCLA." Drake is good, all right, but the only likely way Pulliam's dream can come true is if he uses his tape recorder to hit Alcindor over the head. The Bulldogs seem to be ill-equipped, despite John's eight or nine different offenses, to slow down the game a la USC.
North Carolina, the Bruins' likely opponent in the grand finale, is capable, however. The Tar Heels have practiced and used their Four Corner delay offense all season, and they have the height—6'10" Clark, 6'8" Bunting and 6'10" Dedmon—should they choose to surround Alcindor on defense. The two teams met in the finals in Los Angeles last year, and Carolina trailed by only 35-27 when Bunting got his fourth foul with 17 minutes left. If any team in the country can do it now it is North Carolina, if it does not overlook Purdue in the semifinals and if it does not miss Dick Grubar's defense and fast-break leadership too much—and if Alcindor gets too lackadaisical. Carolina Coach Smith is probably iffing himself to sleep these nights.
But when the last buzzer sounds and the nets get cut down for use as victory ornamentation, the Bruins most likely will be wearing them. It would be the third NCAA title in a row for UCLA and the fifth in six years. And Alcindor, the quiet young man from New York City who made it possible, will at last have used up his eligibility, to the immense relief of college coaches everywhere.
"We've got seven more days," said Alcindor, who had to worry about two final examinations and a term paper before boarding the plane for Louisville. "This is the big one. No one has ever won three straight. We want three straight."