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Fratricide was the game the Big East played in the regular season, four of the top five teams pitching shutouts against at least one of the other top five. St. John's twice beat Georgetown, which twice beat Syracuse, which twice beat BC, which twice beat St. John's. Villanova split with all of the above, and then barely survived lowly Connecticut in the Garden, winning 69-68 only after Wildcat Coach Rollie Massamino finally figured out how to handle the Huskies' three-midget backcourt of 6'1" Earl Kelley, 5'11" Vern Giscombe and 5'8" Karl Hobbs. "What is this, a casting call for the Gary Coleman story?" asked the New York Daily News.
Meanwhile, Syracuse avenged its two losses to Georgetown, after which Boston College avenged its two defeats to Syracuse, after which BC Coach Gary Williams, recalling his team's two victories over St. John's, said, "It doesn't look good for us in the final."
The tournament's first surprise was that Coach John Thompson's usually reclusive Hoyas stayed a few blocks from the Garden rather than in downtown Conway, N.H. Surprise No. 2 was the popularity of the Ewing look. Syracuse freshman Wendell Alexis out-Ewinged Ewing by wearing a T shirt under his uniform that was even dingier than Pat's old gray mare, and Connecticut's Kelley featured a snappy "T" himself. Available at fine menswear outlets, downtown and on the mall.
Thompson was disappointed that his team, which had limited Syracuse seniors Leo Rautins and Erich Santifer to three baskets in an 80-75 regular-season victory three nights earlier, allowed the pair 13 this time. It was also disconcerting that Ewing seemed vaguely distracted and didn't score until 8:48 into the game, by which time Syracuse was well on its way to a 79-72 upset. While another Orange freshman, a future monster named Rafael Addison, was scoring 17 important points, a Hoya freshman named David Dunn, a former high school football player from Georgia, was casting a couple of implausible mortars during clutch time, guaranteeing Georgetown would finish, well, un-Dunn.
"I knew I'd get caught in a hornet's nest up here," Thompson said. Uh, oh. Next year's Big East lodgings: Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Syracuse was less than a clockwork Orange in the semis against BC; the Orangemen were unable to sustain a quick pace mainly because the Eagles refused to press, as is their wont. Syracuse had abused Boston College by 20 and 17 points during the regular season, but this time Williams ordered patience. So BC fell back on defense and engaged Syracuse in a half-court duel in which Guard Michael Adams and Forward Jay Murphy combined for 48 points, and the Eagles won 80-74.
And so once again the scarlet-lettered BC, the enigma of the litter, the basketball team from the hockey school, had snuck up on another opponent. This is much the same team that came within seven points of the 1982 Final Four; it's minus John Bagley but has more balance, depth and versatility. Do not be stunned if the Eagles cause a major commotion in the big show again this year.
Still, they usually get no high ranking and nobody knows them—for some very good reasons. Center John Garris, he of the ferocious offensive rebounds, was as deserving of being Big East regular-season MVP as Mullin, who won it along with the tournament honors, but Garris was a total bust at Michigan before transferring, and he didn't start a game last season. Murphy is 6'11" of skin and bone, and shoots from so far outside he might as well be at Dartmouth; his counterpart in the other corner is Martin Clark from the legendary mean streets of Folkestone, England. Then there is the exciting Adams, barely 5'9", who is quicksilver between the foul lines but whose ugly shotput J, erratic ball handling and hangdown trunks combine the worst of George McGinnis, J.C. Watts and Joe Frazier. But let's hear it for the Eagles, 24-6 as the NCAA tournament began, whose lightning-quick press had caused 44 turnovers in their two previous wins over media darling St. John's.
That pattern quickly changed in the Big East finals because Carnesecca switched defensive assignments, ordering Russell to guard Murphy outside and the rest of the Redmen squad to fill the key, prohibiting Adams access to the passing seams. "We didn't want another rat race," Carnesecca said.
Murphy, who had previously scored 49 points against St. John's, sank only six of 15 shots. Adams, the cousin of the rising welterweight fighter Marlon Starling and a former boxer himself, was TKO'd along about the fifth round. "One for 13," Adams said after staring at the stat sheet. "I was like a ghost out there."