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Conspiracy or not, the Bruins might have lost without Brad Holland. The sophomore guard, morose after being benched earlier in the season and perhaps thinking of transferring to several schools, among them Las Vegas, got into the game in the second half and hit a bunch of rainbows that enabled UCLA to win 87-79.
The East Regional at College Park, Md. is a mystery. Notre Dame? VMI? How many had these two in their Top 20 at the start of the year? The Irish beat Hofstra 90-83 while the Keydets whipped Duquesne 73-66. And North Carolina, the team from M*A*S*H, seems to keep losing players and winning games, while setting records for optimistic medical bulletins. Let's see, the latest is that Tom LaGarde is going to throw away his crutches and Walter Davis is going to pull the pins out of his fractured finger just before game time. Right. With LaGarde and Davis incapacitated, Notre Dame can beat North Carolina. Talk about luck of the Irish.
But nobody can beat Kentucky, not in this region. The Wildcats have muscle, speed, a bench, a coach—and tradition. One thing is certain: now that Kentucky has plodded past pesky Princeton, it will be off and running. "I'm from racehorse country," says Coach Joe Hall. "It's difficult to hook our horses to a plow." The mules, Rick Robey and Mike Phillips, get the ball, and the thoroughbreds, Jack Givens and Larry Johnson, take it from there.
In the losers' division, the Midwest, the good news is that someone has to win at Oklahoma City. The bad news is that someone will. Marquette, Kansas State, Wake Forest and Southern Illinois have 27 defeats among them.
Of course, Marquette's star has fallen much farther than the others'. The Warriors were highly thought of until their midseason swoon, precipitated perhaps by the pending retirement of coach and philosopher Al McGuire. Lately, in a narrow loss to Michigan and a 66-51 NCAA win over Cincinnati, the patient's condition appeared to be improved.
The other three teams also have had problems. Kansas State and SIU trailed in their Big Eight and Valley races most of the season, while Wake's travails were just the opposite. The Deacons did their usual el foldo at the wire.
For certain, the Wildcats of Kansas State will not be bashful. Freshman Curtis Redding and juniors Mike Evans and Scott Langston all like to throw up the mail-in jump shot. "You need a lot of mustard to cover them," points out Providence Coach Dave Gavitt. "They're a long hot dog that stretches all the way around the building." Still, Marquette should return McGuire to the NCAA finals for the last farewell.
The Mideast was the regional where Kentucky was going to delight the hometown tobacco farmers and fried-chicken barons in Lexington's Rupp Arena with an easy victory. Then Tennessee got in the way, twice, and tied Kentucky for the Southeastern Conference championship. So Kentucky was sent off to the East, leaving Tennessee to defend SEC honor. Only Syracuse, ignored most of the season, upset Tennessee in overtime last Sunday.
The Syracuse victory notwithstanding, Michigan remains the team to beat in the Mideast. The Wolverines started the season No. 1, and finished No. 1, but along the way sowed enough seeds of doubt to leave the unfaithful wondering if they were charmed last year. Simply put, replacing departed Forward Way-man Britt was a more difficult task than anyone but Coach Johnny Orr realized. However, Michigan's victory over Holy Cross in the first round last week was the school's 10th in its last 11 games, resurrecting the rumors that if Michigan wins it all this year, Orr will cash in his chips. Against Detroit in the Mideast semifinals, Michigan should prove that a good dressing can save a slightly wilted salad, meaning, who remembers the middle of the season?
In the other match-up are two teams that are better than most people think, but not as good as their fans hope. One is Syracuse, the other is North Carolina-Charlotte, starved for attention and with a brilliant player in Cedric (Cornbread) Maxwell, hero of last year's NIT. Neither team has the bench to stick with Michigan, although it should be a game for 30 minutes.