In the midst of a rematch and a Smith-off in Birmingham, puzzled onlookers may wonder what happened to this region's No. 1 seed, Michigan. What happened was that having barely withstood Fairleigh Dickinson—raise your hand if you remember the Knights' Redonia (Red) Duck—59-55 for their 17th-straight victory, the Big Ten champs turned Fairly Ridiculous themselves, losing by the identical score to Villanova.
Against the battle-tested Wildcats, the green Wolverine backcourt of sophomore Antoine Joubert and freshman Gary Grant took their lines from that new standard: "We are the world, we are the children." Initially, they tried to do too much. Ultimately, they never found a way to cope with the alterations in the Philadelphians' defense. Gary played like Cary, taking the collar on 0-for-4 shooting; the Judge mistook the Wildcat match-up zone for a "box." Both ignominiously fouled out.
From a 30-26 halftime lead, Villanova didn't score for 7:44, but Michigan could take only a 35-30 lead. "From then on, everything they did was perfect," said Michigan coach Bill Frieder. Including the coaching lesson. Head Wildcat Rollie Massimino, looking more like Taxi's Danny DeVito with every screech, had told Dwayne (D-Train) McClain to "get physical." So, catapulting his J from behind his left ear, McClain hit a game-high 20 points; Ed Pinckney was not so E-Z on Michigan center Roy Tarpley, neutralizing him inside; 'Nova converted 25 of 31 free throws; and the Wolverines went up in smithereens. "Name me another team that's played Numbers 1 or 2 in the country six times," said Massimino. And finally won one. Up next for roly-poly Rollie is another previous Villanova conqueror, Maryland, which ended the brief but glorious run of everybody's favorite under-goat, Navy.
Actually, Lefty Driesell's Terrapins were scared out of their very shells by Miami (O.) before Adrian Branch's steal and Jeff Adkins's rebound basket pulled out a first-round overtime win. They were frightened even more by the Midshipmen, whose 78-55 sinking of fraudulent LSU was the most surprising tournament development. "It's like having a child on drugs," said coach Dale Brown of LSD, or rather LSU. "I'm responsible. [No kidding!] I'm the admiral of the ship." Brown reacted so zombielike to his team's submarining, he might as well have gone overboard.
As for the Middies, 6'11" David Robinson followed up his 18 points and 18 rebounds against the Tigers by nearly helping Navy record another belowdecks shocker over Maryland. Navy led by 11 early in the second half, but the rudder fell off, and Maryland won 64-59. "I'd like to get to the Final Four before I die, but if it don't happen, so be it," said Lefty. Did he think it possible this year? "Yeah, I could kick off anytime."
Having previously stunk out the joint against Maryland, Villanova should make amends and save Driesell the trouble of being beaten yet again by his close pals from North Carolina. For its part, however, 'Nova has been outrebounded 42-60 so far in the tournament, a failure that could prove disastrous.
If anybody can upstage Carolina's Smiths, coach Dean and guard Kenny, it may be Auburn's own homespun, can't-help-but-be-funny Sonny, whose travels have earned him the moniker, Suitcase Sonny Smith. "When I came here, they gave me a mobile home and told me not to take the wheels off," Smith said. But just as he was packing for an announced leave-taking, the Tigers started winning and haven't stopped: Squeakers over Purdue and Kansas postponed Smith's sentimental journey and suggested that Auburn forward Chuck Person (41 points, two games) is as clutch-minded as Smith is wry. "Four play, four play," the Auburn coach shouted at his players. And he didn't even blush.
A clutch play is precisely what Kenny Smith used to save the Tar Heels from elimination against Notre Dame. The fleet sophomore stuffed the business end of a David Rivers turnover in the waning seconds to win a taut and terrific game, 60-58. As Irish coach Digger Phelps eschewed a time-out to blow kisses to Rivers, the disciplined Heels blocked the freshman's path, doubled up and forced him to bounce the ball off his knee to Carolina. A kiss is just a kiss, but the South Bend home crowd howled at such St. Patrick's Eve shenanigans.
The loss of splendid guard Steve Hale with a separated shoulder will hurt the Heels. "Losing Steve is like losing my left hand," says K. Smith. But center Brad Daugherty (43 points, 23 boards in two games) and the imposing Carolina forward wall are extremely effective against smaller teams, which are all that remain in the Southeast. The Tar Heels should advance to D. Smith's eighth Final Four.