Action in the ACC has been so unpredictable this season that before last week's game between last-place Virginia and first-place Georgia Tech, the home-standing Cavaliers were installed as one-point favorites. Virginia not only proved the oddsmakers correct by stinging the Yellow Jackets 62-55, but also further tightened up the league standings. For the first time in ACC history, the regular-season champion will have at least four losses. At week's end, Tech, at 7-4, was still on top, while North Carolina, N.C. State and Duke, all at 6-4, were tied for second.
DePaul's showdown at St. John's was a homecoming for point guard Kenny Patterson, the only native New Yorker ever to play for the Blue Demons. "I'd like to do well against St. John's, since it's the last time I'll play against them," he said. Patterson did play well, scoring 17 points, but that didn't prevent DePaul from losing 93-80. It was the Blue Demons' fifth loss in their last seven games.
Rutgers University at Newark (not to be confused with the main Rutgers campus at New Brunswick) earned an unwanted entry in the NCAA record book with its 97-65 loss to Ramapo State of New Jersey. The defeat was the 46th straight for the Division III Scarlet Raiders, which tied the NCAA record of Olivet ( Mich.) from 1959-60 to '60-61 and of Southwest State of Minnesota from 1971-72 to '72-73. "You could only tell the kids so many times, 'You can win, you can win,' " says Scarlet Raider assistant coach Paul Reid. "They take a lot of ribbing from other students, but they have the courage to put on the uniform. I admire them for it."
It is true that coach Bob Boyd of Mississippi State hasn't said "I told you so," at least not publicly. But it's now clear that when he predicted before the season that his Bulldogs would be the SEC's most improved team, he meant it. A year ago State went 4-14 in league play and finished ninth. Last week, after rolling to home-court wins over Auburn (82-65) and Kentucky (82-69), the Bulldogs were 9-5 in the SEC and had moved into a four-way tie for the lead with the Wildcats, Georgia and LSU. State's surprising success has left even Boyd mildly incredulous. "I thought we'd double our league victory total," he says. "I figured if we did that, we'd lend some credibility to what I'd said. Our team is getting better at a time when other teams have a tendency to tail off." The Bulldogs' victories improved their home-court record to 11-1, the lone loss having come to Memphis State on Dec. 15.
Jacksonville coach Bob Wenzel, 35, will probably miss the remainder of the season after having a 7�-hour operation to relieve a leaking cerebral aneurism. At week's end, Wenzel was in stable condition at Memorial Medical Center in Jacksonville. Although there was some speculation that Wenzel might be fit enough to return to the bench for the Sun Belt tournament on March 1-3, JU athletic director Paul Griffin said, "There's no way I can imagine him back in time."
Loyola of Chicago whipped crosstown rival DePaul (78-71) and Evansville (89-80) to extend its winning streak to 10 games. Rambler forward Alfredrick Hughes sparkled against the Blue Demons, pouring in 28 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. "It's nice being known as the best player [in the city]," said Hughes afterward, "but you want to be on the best team. I think we're the best team." Hughes added 37 points and 12 boards in Loyola's romp past Evansville, which assured the Ramblers the Midwestern City regular-season title.
Michigan's aptly named reserve back-court man Garde Thompson had his tongue in his cheek when he told a reporter last week, "I see where Iowa had 22,000 for a girls' game. Heck, for the Michigan-Iowa men's game they ought to be able to draw 50,000 fans." One Detroit-area woman didn't find Thompson's remark funny and called him to complain. "You are nothing but a sexist," she told him. When she said she had read the remark in the Detroit Free Press, Thompson said, "I guess you should cancel your subscription and read The Detroit News."