North Carolina had one question to answer as the season began: Who would replace the departed Jimmy Braddock as the Tar Heels' point guard? Sophomore Steve Hale appeared to have the inside track on the job, but at the last minute Smith surprised everyone by going with freshman Kenny Smith (no relation to the coach). Smith, who became the fifth freshman ever to start an opening game in Coach Smith's 23 years at Chapel Hill, scored 14 points and dished out five assists to lead the Heels to a hard-fought 64-57 victory over Mizzou.
"He played with a lot of poise," said Smith the coach of Smith the frosh. "I didn't have to be jittery," said Kenny. "Everybody was keying on Michael [Jordan] and Sam [Perkins], so all I had to do was relax and play my game." Jordan scored 13 points but hit just six of 15 shots from the floor, while Perkins had 12 points and 13 rebounds but was only four of 10 from the field. Nonetheless, Jordan and Perkins teamed with Smith to spark a 10-2 Tar Heel burst that gave Carolina a commanding 59-49 lead with 1:38 to go. "He did a lot better than I did when I was a freshman," said Jordan, who was the last Tar Heel freshman to be given a starting assignment.
Another vaunted freshman guard, Syracuse's Dwayne (The Pearl) Washington, made a smashing debut, scoring his first basket just three seconds into the Orange's 88-49 rout of Colgate in the Carrier Dome. Washington scored a team-high 16 points and handed out six assists.
Senior Forward Mark Fothergill scored 17 points in Maryland's 108-65 defeat of Division III Johns Hopkins. Winston-Salem State's Clarence (Bighouse) Gaines became the fifth coach in history to surpass 700 career victories as the Rams won the Gaines Classic, named for Bighouse. No. 700 was a 100-72 win over Barber-Scotia ( N.C.) in the opening round, and No. 701 was a 75-67 victory over Livingstone in the title game.
DePaul's 73-58 victory over Northern Illinois in Rockford left Blue Demon Coach Ray Meyer just two wins shy of membership in the 700 club. But what pleased Meyer most was that his team had won on the road. "We only had two road victories [by a total of three points] last year," said Meyer. "Now we have half that." Guard Tony Jackson came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points for the Blue Demons.
"Being called Sikma was the joke of the week with us playing Illinois Wesleyan," said Iowa Center Brad Lohaus, whose height (7 feet) and blond curly perm hairdo match those of Jack Sikma, an All-America (1976-77) at Wesleyan and now an NBA All-Star at Seattle. In the Hawkeyes' 86-60 romp over Wesleyan in Iowa City, Lohaus was deadly serious, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to herald George Raveling's debut as Iowa's coach. Michigan State breezed to the championship of its own Spartan Cutlass Classic in East Lansing, whipping Central Michigan 73-52 in the opening round and Western Michigan 81-52 in the final.
"They say you play like you practice," said LSU Coach Dale Brown after the Tigers struggled past New Orleans 67-59 and spoiled the dedication of UNO's $38 million, 10,000-seat Lakefront Arena. "Tonight we refuted that statement. We have had 40 great practices, but we went out and played like we hadn't practiced at all." The Tigers trailed 30-21 at intermission, but 18 second-half points by Guard Derrick Taylor, who finished with a game-high 22, rallied LSU.