Now that 35,000 or so in the Carrier Dome will not be screaming them down, the Tar Heels can concentrate on combating Ohio State's speedy three-guard offense and the creative shooting of Tony Campbell. Perkins may have a picnic against the balding Granville Waiters once Sudden Sam turns in his ballot in the Guess Granville's Age contest.
Meanwhile, St. John's should dispose of quicker Georgia, which earned a tainted Dawg biscuit when James Banks fired the shot heard round the rim—or was it the shot that rimmed round the Heard?—to beat Virginia Commonwealth 56-54. TV replays seemed to show that Georgian Lamar Heard touched the ball within the cylinder, which would have constituted interference, but Banks got credit for the basket. "Naw, he still didn't touch it," said Dawg Coach Hugh Durham, upon viewing the play later.
The St. John's merry-go-round—"I don't want to get off yet," Coach Lou Carnesecca said—began with the Red-men's season-opening OT victory over Carolina, in which the Tar Heels had a five-point lead and ball possession with 90 seconds to play only to wave it goodby with uncharacteristically poor foul shooting. But North Carolina is the more improved club now. It's difficult to believe that the marvelous sophomore, Jordan, who has had a Player of the Year season—yes, Ralph fans, the best season—will let it happen again.
MIDEAST: Unfortunately for the citizens of the Commonwealth, the dream match in this regional final between Kentucky and Louisville will again be denied them if only because of Wildcat Coach Joe B. (for Beware?) Hall's aversion to the dreaded K's—Indiana Coach Bobby Knight and the city of Knoxville, where Hall is a dreadful 1-10 lifetime.
Last week Kentucky shook off the Ohio U. Bobcats, but Indiana's Bob, having lost one half of the streak-shooting Witchel Twins—Ted Kitchel went down to back surgery but Randy Wittman remains—has regrouped the Hoosiers and kept them winning on emotion, ball control and defense. Moreover, without Kitchel the offense has more continuity and the defense is quicker, better able to deal with Kentucky's massive postman, Melvin Turpin, and the gifted rookie Kenny (Sky) Walker. It will take a supreme effort for the Hoosiers to repeat December's 62-59 win over Kentucky, but that's what Knight's teams usually deliver, isn't it?
Louisville would seem to have too many weapons for both Arkansas and Indiana. Two wins would send Denny Crum to the Final Four for the fifth time in his 12 coaching years and cap the careers of the brothers McCray: Carlton Lamont (Scooter) and the stoical Rodney, a.k.a. Hard. As in hard to stop, to rattle, to beat, to get pub. It's not hard to see that Rodney is the most underrated player in many a season. While the versatile Cards still dunk and block anything that isn't battened down—Charles Jones, take a bow—they can press and play position defense too, run like the dickens or slow down to set it up.
MIDWEST: This is the celebrity regional. Houston's Phi Slamma Jammas. Keith Lee of Memphis State. The Villanova Killer P's, John Pinone and E-Z Ed Pinckney. Missouri's S-O-S squad, Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sunvold. Whoops, scrub the S-O-S. Which is what Iowa's Twin Towers, Greg Stokes and Michael Payne, did while ham 'n' egging for 41 points in the Hawkeye upset. Then there was the other pair of World Trade Centers, Georgetown's Pat Ewing versus Lee, commanding generals leading their troops in blue and gray near the Mason-Dixon Line at the sub-regional in Louisville. This time the gray won 66-57 as Lee outscored and outré bounded a foul-plagued Ewing 28 and 15 to 24 and nine (with four missed dunks).
In K.C., Houston's 7-footer, Akeem Olajuwon, will get much more help inside and out than Ewing did. In fact Larry (Mr. Mean) Micheaux will probably do the honors on Lee until he roams into Olajuwon's territory. But in Houston's 60-50 victory over Maryland, sloppy Cougar half-court defense and shabby foul shooting were exposed. The Terps were able to pass the ball 94 times on one trip downcourt and the Phis didn't register a single slamma until Clyde Drexler's game-ending jamma. "They tried to play a con game and it didn't work," said the Glide. "I let out frustration on that last one. I wish I could have broken the backboard."
The Cougars are just too slick and powerful for Iowa—Micheaux's tattoos alone are enough to scare the entire Big Ten—but Villanova is a cat of a different color. Namely, black and blue. Rollie Massimino's intelligent, and physical, gang is fresh from the Big East wars, and the Cats seemed to be over their year-end slump in the coast past Lamar, which got that far by upsetting Alabama. The 'Nova team strengths are designed to beat a bunch just like the Cougars: a barbwire all-court press that will test the suspect Houston guards, and one of the nation's best delay games. If the in-and-out Pinckney and the off-and-on Stewart Granger are in and on, Villanova should advance.
WEST: O.K., so what are we to make of Big Ralph? Is this it? Will the titan of the age pull up short of the finish, his goal unfulfilled, his career ended on the campus of...Weber State?