"This is not a realistic profession," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "It's a dreamworld where everybody thinks they're going to be an All-America and win every game." Nonetheless, Holland's team was on the verge of making another dream come true by winning all its games at the Atlantic Coast Conference playoffs in Greensboro, N.C. The Cavaliers, who had never been to any of the ACC's previous 22 finals until last year and who then stunned North Carolina State, Maryland and North Carolina to take the title, made it to the championship game again this time. They got there by upsetting Wake Forest 59-57 on a turnaround jumper by Marc Iavaroni with two seconds left and by surprising Clemson 72-60. North Carolina, the regular-season titlist, received a bye into the semifinals where it cruised past North Carolina State 70-56. In the finals, Virginia led by eight points with 7:08 to go. But then the Cavaliers wore down, missed shots and lost 75-69. At the game's end, the Tar Heels had just one regular on the floor, Phil Ford and Mike O'Koren having fouled out after teaming up for 47 points; Walter Davis was nursing a broken finger and Tommy LaGarde was on crutches. That lone regular, Guard John Kuester, was named the tournament MVP for holding the Tar Heels together and for scoring 27 points in the two games. North Carolina had begun the week with a 96-89 win over Louisville, as Ford and O'Koren each scored 26 points.
Even though high-scoring Lew Massey was out with an ankle injury. North Carolina-Charlotte beat Creighton 85-67, Marshall 84-80 and Virginia Commonwealth 87-72. Cedric (Cornbread) Maxwell amassed 75 points for the Forty Niners, who then accepted an NCAA bid.
With its relentless defense doing its job and with Frank Sowinski averaging 22 points, Princeton locked up the Ivy League title. The Tigers had little trouble beating Columbia 66-49, Cornell 69-56, Brown 63-40 and Yale 61-39. Penn dropped out of a tie for first place when Cornell rallied for an 82-68 verdict. The Quakers then stopped Columbia 61-56, Yale 105-59 and Brown 78-77 but finished a game behind the NCAA-bound Tigers.
In the last regular-season game for both teams, St. John's upset Holy Cross 62-61. Both then earned NCAA berths. The Redmen prevailed at the ECAC Metropolitan New York playoffs, MVP George Johnson notching 26 of his 28 points in the second half to down Seton Hall 83-73. St. John's thus gained its 13th straight post-season tournament bid and a record 32nd in all. Holy Cross, which beat Providence in December on a last-ditch shot by Chris Potter, jarred the Friars again. And once again it was Potter who sank the winning basket, this time on an 18-foot jumper with five seconds left for a 68-67 victory in the New England playoffs.
Syracuse took the ECAC Upstate New York title by polishing off St. Bonaventure 85-72. Old Dominion won the ECAC Southern playoffs by zapping Georgetown 80-58. Then, in a showdown to determine which of those two would advance to the NCAAs, Old Dominion had its 22-game winning streak ended by Syracuse 67-64.
Also making it to the NCAAs were Hofstra, VMI and Duquesne. Rich Laurel, who averaged 30.1 points a game for the Flying Dutchmen this season, scored 33 as Hofstra bumped off LaSalle for the East Coast Conference title. Teammate John Irving, who led the nation in rebounding with a 16.3 average, had 11 rebounds and 24 points. VMI had to go into overtime to beat Appalachian State 69-67 for the Southern Conference championship. Dave Montgomery paced the Keydets, sinking 10 of 12 floor shots and topping off a 28-point performance with two foul shots with 18 seconds remaining. Duquesne stopped Villanova 57-54 for Eastern Collegiate Basketball League honors.
1. NORTH CAROLINA (25-4)
2. HOLY CROSS (23-5)
3. PROV. (24-4)
With Michigan's Rickey Green sidelined with a bruised hip suffered in an 87-72 win at Illinois, junior Guard Dave Baxter started at Purdue. Baxter responded superbly with 20 points and 10 assists as the Wolverines won 84-79. Better yet was Phil Hubbard, who contributed 31 points and 16 rebounds. While Hubbard was on the bench with four fouls, the Boilermakers scored seven consecutive points to cut Michigan's lead to 66-63. So Hubbard came off the bench to score six straight points. And when Purdue pulled to within 74-73, Hubbard tossed in four more. Purdue, which finished three games behind Big Ten champion Michigan, also earned an NCAA spot for having a 19-8 record while playing a schedule that included seven 20-game winners. A day later the Wolverines edged Marquette 69-68 in Ann Arbor. Second-place Minnesota bumped off Wisconsin 64-61 and Northwestern 105-82.
A 41-15 rebounding advantage, plus 36 points by Bernard King, enabled Tennessee to topple Kentucky 81-79. For the Vols, who had trailed 55-44, it was the fifth time in a row that they had beaten the Wildcats in three seasons. Tennessee thus tied for first place with Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference, with each having one game to play before both enter the NCAA's 32-team tournament. Kentucky had earlier stopped Mississippi State 77-64, establishing a school record by sinking 15 of 18 field-goal tries (83%) in the second half.