4 NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame was a young team last year, laden with sophomores and juniors who seemed, early on, to resemble the 6-20 losers of the season before. But despite a 1-6 start they came on like banshees. Center John Shumate had spells when nothing went up that did not go in, Forward Gary Novak became very defensive and Guard Dwight Clay ran the offense superbly. After two-point losses to Indiana and Kentucky, the Irish apocalyptically earned an NIT berth with wins over Marquette, St. John's and South Carolina and nearly won the tournament with consecutive upsets of Southern Cal, Louisville and North Carolina before a last-second basket gave Virginia Tech the championship in overtime. "It's just as well," says smooth Gary Brokaw, one of five returning starters from the 18-12 team. "We know there's a lot more we can accomplish."
Notre Dame's turnaround under Coach Digger Phelps was not altogether unpredictable. Only three years ago Phelps was making miracles on Ford-ham's Rose Hill. Although he suffered grievously in his first season at South Bend, he installed a system and instilled pride in the team, and last year he got some honest-to-goodness players. Now he has some more, and for the first time under Phelps the Irish have depth and a more effective pressure defense.
Freshman Forwards Adrian Dantley and Billy Paterno, the best that Washington, D.C. and New Jersey could offer, will take lots of playing time if not starting jobs from Pete Crotty and Novak. Another freshman, Ray Martin, looked comfortable at the point guard, so maybe nobody is safe.
Nobody except Shumate, the very physical 6'9" center who made 38 of 51 shots in the NIT and was the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Shu has occasionally overlooked the virtues of dedication, inspiration and perspiration. To motivate Shumate is Clay's job. "I just wasn't doing anything early last year," says Shumate, "and Dwight came up to me and said, "Big Daddy, I don't care how many shots you miss, I'm going to keep bringing the ball to you because I know you can do it. You've got to do it.' " Not long afterward Big Daddy started doing it. He finished the year averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds per game, both team highs. "It's like this," says Clay, whose basket ended Marquette's 81-game home winning streak last year. "I keep Shu motivated and Digger motivates me."
Phelps is unabashedly turned on by the Golden Dome, under which the joy should be immense this year.
5 NORTH CAROLINA
The quaint community of Chapel Hill is up to the tops of its pine trees in rumors, anticipation and good old-fashioned enthusiasm. What is it that Dean Smith is building in Carmichael Auditorium? Can the freshmen really spot the varsity 10 points?
The reason for the outbreak of galloping fervor is that North Carolina has most of the components back from a team that went 25-8 and finished third in the NIT last year, and it had the best recruiting year ever, bringing in half a dozen freshmen who look like the neatest finds in Carolina since the filter tip.
The neatest of the new bunch is a top banana named Walter Davis, a little green to be sure, but still a 6'5" wizard the home folks like to compare to David Thompson, down the road at North Carolina State. Davis is not that talented, but then who is? Still, he is too good to keep out of the lineup—that is if he can survive the hazing period Smith automatically imposes to newcomers. "We kind of like the freshmen to remember they're freshmen," he says.