motels were so fully packed that they were out of everything from hot water to
grits. Each school's cheering section staked out a lodge, decorating the lobby
with team colors, emblems, flags and everything but David Thompson pictures
that glowed in the dark. Even the maids' cleaning carts had bumper stickers on
rated only a mention in the pretournament figuring. Maryland (22-3) was the
regular-season conference champion, N.C. State (20-5) the defending national
champion, and Clemson had been playing better than anyone. The only edge UNC
had was history. North Carolina and N.C. State have won seven of the eight most
But the Tar Heels
threw the predictions and their season's record aside once the Wake Forest game
began. They forced three quick turnovers, including the Scoreboard's
interception, and profited from a pair of Deacon misses on the front end of
one-and-one free throws to catch up in regulation time of the opener. Guard
Brad Hoffman, the only senior in the starting lineup, made the shot that tied
it with three seconds left. Then Ford and substitute John Kuester buried free
throws and the Deacons in the last seconds of the overtime. "What a way to
start the tournament," said Smith.
The same night
North Carolina State also got off to a nervous start. The Wolf-pack, which had
played some desultory games during the regular season, appeared to have
recaptured the spark that produced 57 victories in 58 games the previous two
years. State opened up a 22-point lead against Virginia, then left fingernail
scratches on the floor as it held on for a 91-85 win.
One of the
Wolfpack's problems was that its center was playing for Hawaii. State Coach
Norm Sloan thought he had 7-foot Tommy Barker signed, sealed and ready for
delivery when the junior college transfer opted for palms instead of pines and
headed for Waikiki. That forced Sloan to switch Forward Phil Spence into the
middle, and the move muddled Spence's game. "It's a new season now,"
Spence said before the tournament started. "I'm trying to be the player I
was when the season began. I was relaxed then."
not on Clemson's schedule. The Tigers had not won an ACC tournament game since
1964, and Coach Tates Locke was about as cheerful about that as a rock singer
is about going bald. Stories that his team may be penalized by the NCAA for
rules infractions also did nothing to sweeten Locke's disposition. He
retaliated by barring reporters from the locker room. "It's Tates, as in
hates," said one writer.
The Tigers had
won 10 of their last 12 games, including a 22-point victory over N.C. State.
Freshman Wise was a big reason for those successes, and it was Wise who iced
the opening victory against Duke. He sank two free throws with three seconds
left. Locke said, "We could have had God out there with us tonight and we
would have been scared. We're used to getting up on Friday of the tournament
and leaving Greensboro for home."
lost in overtime to North Carolina State in last year's finals, earned a
first-round bye this year as reward for winning the regular-season title. The
Terps also were encouraged by the knowledge that next season the tournament
will be played at Capital Centre in Maryland, a result of the supplications of
Lefty Driesell, who believes that holding it in tobacco country is injurious to
his team's health.
rematch with N.C. State figured to be the highlight of this year's tournament.
The Terps virtually were assured an NCAA bid, but State would have to win the
tourney to have a chance to defend its national title. State Guards Monte Towe
and Mo Rivers knew that was no easy assignment.
"You beat up
on a guy so much and he's going to get revenge," said Rivers. "Teams
have been so fired up for us that it's ridiculous."