As a measure of the strength here, there are three teams that lost to the likes of Western Kentucky, Seton Hall and Stetson. They should pass the hat for this crew.
The first impostor to test UCLA will be Dayton, which has already traveled 23,000 miles mostly on the scrawny shoulders of Guards Don Smith and Johnny Davis. They combined for 42 points in the Flyers' first-round victory over L.A. State while converted Guard Mike (Sly) Sylvester got another 30. In past weeks Dayton fans have chanted, "NIT! NIT!" at home games, but Coach Don Donoher opted for the big tournament, then beat Notre Dame to finish the regular season. "I may have potatoes in my head," said Donoher. During its recent doldrums, UCLA has been using more and more people—most notably the quicksilver messenger, Andre McCarter, who should be more than enough to offset Dayton's backcourt speed and get the Bruins to the winner of the San Francisco-New Mexico contest.
This is another puzzle, for early on the Dons lost five straight games and seemed to have left their hearts in Sausalito, while all New Mexico did was survive another wacky schedule in the WAC and finally win the league on a play the Lobos call the "blind-pig route."
San Francisco is a versatile and dangerous outfit, but its stars, Kevin Restani and Phil Smith, have been erratic. New Mexico, on the other hand, is more balanced and even tends to play defense in a league where, if you don't score 800 points a game, you must be a cactus.
The Lobos have had one player accused of shoplifting, another of stealing a bicycle—prompting a third to ask Coach Norm Ellenberger, "Does the probation officer come with us on the road?"—but they are a relentless group familiar with the Tucson floor. Ellenberger, a flamboyant sort, will bring his low-neckline bodyshirts and his lucky squash-blossom necklace from the Jicarilla Apache tribe, and he will probably get by San Francisco. Against the Bruins, though, the entire Apache nation might not be enough.
The East: It is not stretching a point to say that there will be three men in Raleigh who honestly have had better years than UCLA's Walton. One is Billy Knight of Pittsburgh, who is the most underrated player in college. Another is Marvin Barnes of Providence who, when he remembers not to loaf, is nearly as intimidating as the big redhead. The third, of course, is David Thompson, who—let this heresy stand—should have been voted Player of the Year both on performance and for withstanding the spectacle of Coach Norm Sloan's vibrant haberdashery while continuing to play like a genius.
Pittsburgh is a deceptive, mature bunch of opportunists who were looking forward to avenging one of three regular-season defeats, by South Carolina. Instead Furman beat the Panthers to it. Coach Joe Williams' tall Paladins, who had their own grudge to settle with the Gamecocks ( Frank McGuire would not schedule them), achieved a sweet upset in the Palestra when Clyde Mayes became a rebounding fool and Furman's weak "layup defense" tightened for a 75-67 victory.
The Paladins are strong on the boards where Pitt is not, but when Knight, Mickey Martin and Lew Hill, among other Panthers, are on their game, they outsmart the enemy and make a team like Furman look bad.
The result here should be academic, however, because the key to the East is in the meeting between Barnes and Kevin Stacom of Providence and Thompson and Tom Burleson of N.C. State.
These are old friends, teammates from the World University Games who are chafing to get at each other. "We'll have our hands full," Barnes said after the Friars decked Penn. Bad Marvin is right. He has had a wondrous year in which he has carried the team above its rightful level during those times that Stacom wasn't saving the day with last-minute heroics. But it is probably asking too much of this pair to beat the Wolfpack in its lair.