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With a schedule that includes a trip to Nevada-Las Vegas, rematches with Detroit and Holy Cross, and a probable confrontation with Syracuse in the final of the Carrier Classic, the Gaels would seem susceptible to burning themselves out before playoff time, but Iona's arduous road schedule of a year ago, when it played at both Kentucky and North Carolina State, should begin paying dividends this season. The Gaels ought not be worn down or intimidated by the big-name competition this time around. And Valvano will be watching to make sure that they aren't. "I don't want our kids to peak too early," he says, obviously agreeing with Brown that Iona can expect to be playing some pretty important games come March.
10 GEORGIA TECH
Georgia Tech lacks many of the trappings considered de rigueur for a successful basketball program. It has no plush, color-coordinated carpeting in the coach's office; no huge, modern arena with which to awe recruits; no funds to spruce up its Spartan dressing rooms; no basketball tradition to speak of; and, as some folks to the immediate north might suggest, no business moving from the Metro Conference into the rugged ACC.
Tech cannot win its new league this year—not because of a lack of talent but because it will not be a full-fledged member of the ACC until 1979-80. Meanwhile, it should enjoy itself for one season as an independent. The Engineers have three nifty players, a wily, good-ole-boy coach, a lightweight schedule and very little chance of missing this year's NCAA tournament.
Tech's main men are Sammy Drummer, a bullish 6'5" forward who led the Metro in scoring with 21.1 points a game last year; Quatico Moreno ("Call me Tico") Brown, a 6'5" guard who twice last season had three-minute spurts in which he scored 10 points; and Lenny Horton, a 6'7" forward who shot 61.1% and who should improve upon his 10.9 scoring average of a year ago. Point Guard Billy Smith is deft at parceling out field-goal opportunities to this threesome, but Tech's centers are undistinguished. All of which makes the Engineers sound a lot like Arkansas, which won 32 games last year while depending largely on three players.
Certainly nobody likes to play Georgia Tech. The Engineers commit few turnovers, make their free throws and seldom get into foul trouble, which is a good thing because there were times last season when Tech played only seven men. The team is not exactly deep this year, but Coach Dwane Morrison isn't worried. He merely boosts the thermostat in the gym to 90°, because he is convinced it keeps his players from getting hurt.
"And because my children out there dearly love the heat," Morrison says with the conviction of a born-again evangelist. "People say we're a throwback team, that the coach has a crew cut, that one of his assistants is part Indian and the other an ex-hog farmer. They're right. And my team is ugly a lot of the time. But I'm here to tell you that for about 45 seconds last season this team was as beautiful as a newborn baby."
Apparently Morrison was able to spread those 45 seconds around, because Georgia Tech won 15 times and was never out of a game. Its 12 losses came by a total of 44 points. Says Brown, "I'd say we lacked height, were unlucky and got some bad calls from the referees once it got around that we were trying to switch to another conference."
Whether Tico's complaints about the officiating are valid or not, it is true that resentment over Georgia Tech's withdrawal from the Metro caused three of that conference's schools—Louisville, St. Louis and Tulane—to drop the Engineers from their 1978-79 schedules. Needing a bunch of new teams on short notice to replace those home-and-home opponents, Morrison came up with what seems likely to be seven sure victories: Newberry, Western Carolina, Morris Harvey, Campbell, East Carolina, Tennessee Tech and Biscayne.
Throw in another 45 seconds of beauty with all those pushovers, and Tech should win 20 in its sleep.