This is the 35-year-old Gaillard's sixth season at USF, where he has won three league championships. He applies his training rules with an even hand; if he is late for practice, he has to do penance by running up and down the gym stairs. A couple of times players have moved up the clock on him, so he arrives early now. And what coach wouldn't get there ahead of time just to watch the sort of team he is assembling.
7 NOTRE DAME
More than any other team, Notre Dame has relied on freshmen to step in immediately. Two years ago Adrian Dantley and Bill Paterno were barely out of high school when they became key players on a 26-3 team. Last season freshmen Guards Jeff Carpenter and Donald ( Duck) Williams and Forward David Batton helped the Irish to an unexpectedly good 19-10 record and a spot in the national championship tournament. Now three more freshmen, 6'2" Guard Bernard Rencher, 6'8" Forward Bruce Flowers and 6'11" Center Bill Laimbeer, are being counted on to play important roles in another drive toward the top of the rankings.
Rencher, who comes from New York City, is an excellent shot. Flowers is an exceptionally agile player from suburban Detroit who spurned offers from Indiana and Michigan. Californian Laimbeer is big, and that is almost enough. "'The thing UCLA and some other teams have had over us is the dominant big man," says Notre Dame Assistant Coach Frank McLaughlin. "Laimbeer could change that by the end of this season."
"Like most freshmen, these kids have to learn defense," says Coach Digger Phelps, "but they'll help us in other ways. We're going to be very physical—I think rebounding is the key to a successful season. We'll also be using all 10 men. People ask me who will start, but that's not important. Some nights a guy will play 12 minutes, other nights 38."
The most likely 38-minute players are 6'6" Paterno, who is trying to move from forward to guard, and 6'5" Dantley, who was second in the nation to David Thompson last year with a 30.4-point scoring average. It is likely that Dantley will have to restrict his shooting somewhat now that he is playing on a well-balanced team. "Maybe not," he counters. "They won't be able to stop me with a box-and-one, because we'll have more good players on the floor. But I'll do what Coach Phelps wants. I'm very sensitive. When I was a freshman, people said I had too much baby fat. I overreacted to that and worked myself so hard that I suffered from dehydration. Now they're saying, 'What do you have left to prove?' Well, I want to prove that I'm a complete player."
Two other juniors, 6'8" center Toby Knight and Guard Ray Martin, and Bat-ton, a 6'9" forward-center who helped turn the Irish around after a 7-6 start last season, will see considerable playing time.
For all Notre Dame's improvement, it will be difficult to surpass the 19 wins of a season ago. The problem, as usual, is the schedule. The Irish play three of last year's top five teams, including UCLA twice. "I'll settle for 18 or 19 wins—whatever it takes to get us a tournament bid," says Phelps. Then, and only then, do the Irish hope to improve on last season, which ended with a loss to Maryland in the regionals. If Notre Dame receives its usual quota of help from the freshmen, it could go much further than that.
8 NORTH CAROLINA
Hardly anything seems to change at North Carolina. The Tar Heels still play their Chinese checkers attack, forcing the ball in from 10 feet to eight feet to six feet to get a better shot. They still seem to pull out most of their wins in the last 10 seconds, when Coach Dean Smith interrupts his four-corners delay offense long enough to call his last three time-outs. And they still drive the rest of the ACC crazy with their assured attitude that basketball is meant to be played this way.