Whether Ray Meyer wins or loses or turns up spinning his jowls on a four-hour cartoon special, the 1984 NCAA basketball tournament has already established itself as a memorable one. James Horace of North Carolina A&T will remember being put on the foul line not by a referee but by a TV announcer. Butch Berry of Oral Roberts will remember dribbling the ball in bounds rather than passing it; perhaps the fact that Berry had swallowed a teammate's contact lens had something to do with it. St. John's Chris Mullin will remember missing a free throw—he did that only once in every 10 attempts all year—with eight seconds to play, after which Temple ended his season. Oklahoma's Wayman Tisdale will remember playing hurt, and being upstaged by a chap named Chapman, as Dayton upset the Sooners. And SMU's Larry Davis will remember falling asleep along the foul lane with 51 seconds to play in a tie game with Georgetown only to awaken as Patrick Ewing swooped inside him, rebounded a missed Hoya free throw and hook-tipped it in to eliminate the frisky Ponies.
Moreover, the 46th annual NCAAs may be recalled as the postseason event in which the ACC lived up to its rep. Four of that conference's five entrants advanced to the round of 16 even as the tournament assumed the look of a family album, what with grandpas, moms, lovers and babies dotting the landscape.
Take Washington coach Marv Harshman. Venerable (read 66 years old), white-haired and only 104 career wins behind Meyer, Harshman kept matching DePaul's DeGramps wrinkle for wrinkle as his Huskies upset the solitary ACC loser, Duke, 80-78. Lois Tarkanian kept flashing her rosary beads when her husband and son, UNLV coach Jerry and captain Danny, as well as the rest of the Runnin' Rebels, required some rejuvenatin' religion. Kentucky's Holly Bankemper, the tournament MVP (most vivid pulchritude), kept cheerleading as her guy, Wildcat guard Jim Master, broke out of a shooting slump. And Keith Dewayne Lee Jr., seven pounds, nine ounces and just seven days old, kept kicking and squealing as his dad led Memphis State to an advantageous position in the draw.
Crying time came early for 37 of the 53 teams, but it was most pronounced at exit polls conducted in Southwestern precincts of Norman, Okla., El Paso, Fayetteville, Ark., and Tulsa and the isolated wards of West Lafayette, Ind. and Durham, N.C. Because Oklahoma, UTEP, Arkansas, Tulsa, Purdue and Duke went out—the Razorbacks most implausibly, losing to Virginia 53-51 in overtime when Othell Wilson's jumper was blocked into the hands of teammate Rick Carlisle, who scored from the corner with four seconds left, phooey-pig!—what we have left are a plethora of rematches, both imminent and possible, in this week's regionals in Atlanta (East), St. Louis (Midwest), Los Angeles (West) and Lexington, Ky. (Mideast). The final rounds, starting with Midwest vs. East and West vs. Mideast in the semis, are scheduled for—would't you just know it?—April Fool's weekend in Seattle.
In St. Louis, rematch city, the square-offs are Houston vs. Memphis State and DePaul vs. Destiny. Take Destiny and give the five. Seriously, there may not be a dry eye in the house if basketball's ancient Meyerner concludes his wonderful career here. But can anyone believe the Blue Demons will allow their beloved old guru to exit at the hands of Wake Forest? Nevertheless, Houston, Memphis State and, yes, Destiny, are all more talented than DePaul, which Meyer says is his most talented team ever. No wonder the Demons yukked it up before a 75-61 defeat of Illinois State in the sub-regional at Lincoln, Neb.
The Demons got 20 points from Tyrone Corbin and simply outmuscled the Redbirds, who had given DePaul fits in the regular season. This was a significant step for such a young crew—freshman and sophs contributed 54% of the Demons' points and 57% of their rebounds—even if it was the 1,077th game for their 70-year-old coach. But, said future coach Joey Meyer, "it was the most important one." Not only did DePaul have to contend with memories of its first-round failures in the three previous NCAAs, it also knew that the next loss would be Ray's last. "Winning's much more important now; when I change clothes in the locker room, I realize it may be for the last time," said Coach. "Every victory is like a reprieve. We win again, I get another week."
Either Houston's Akeem Abdul Olajuwon or Memphis State's Keith Lee should do the awful deed in the Midwest final. Wake Forest, which snuffed slow Kansas, has a quick, smart backcourt and the ACC's most-unknown good player in center Anthony Teachey, but the Demon Deacons are a mirror image of the Blue Demons, who happen to do all the little things a little better. Though guards Jerry McMillan and Kenny Patterson are erratic shooters, Meyer's boys hit the boards with a vengeance and cover on defense like wildfire. The incentive of winning one for the retiree spurred UCLA and Marquette to championships in 1975 and '77. Will the pattern prevail?
Not if the father of Keith Lee Jr. or the brothers of Phi Slamma Jamma have anything to say about it. Lee accumulated 55 points and 27 rebounds in Memphis State's 92-83 and 66-48 demolition jobs on Oral Roberts and Purdue, respectively.
And though Memphis State lost to Houston 70-63 in the regional semis last year, Tiger coach Dana Kirk now has a rejuvenated front line—frosh monster William Bedford and all-name Baskerville Holmes support Lee—as well as more depth. But can Lee forget the whipping Olajuwon laid on him in their previous meeting, when the Dream had 21 points and six blocks? Does Memphis have anyone to stop the Cougars' fine wing shooter, Michael Young? The guess is no and no.