Walter Davis is gearing to return to the Tar Heel lineup and Tommy LaGarde may get to play a little bit for Atlantic Cost Coference chamipon North Carolina against Notre Dame in the NCAA East Regional at Maryland's Cole Field House at 8 p.m. Thursday.

That has make a bit of a dent in Irish hopes of a signal St. Patrick Night triumph, no matter how well the UNC reserves have been performing in the clutch, as against Virginia in the ACC final and versus Purdue in the NCAA first round.

Worse news for Virginia Military and Kentucky fans: If you don't have your ticket and can't fins a scalper, it appears you won't get to see Keydets vs Wildcats in the other half of Thursday's bill; NBC (WRC-TV-4) will show only the UNC-NDU game - the fieldhouse is a 14.000 seelour, so no blackout here. And if you do have your ticket, be forewarned that you not only must beat the rush-hour traffic on the streets and highways to be there for the 6 p.m. opener but that about 8,000 U. of Maryland employees will be battling their way out of the parking lots between 4:30 and 5:30, about the time you're battling your wayin.

Wouldn't an 8 and 10 p.m. double-header have made more sense? And maybe even tempt an offer from another TV outlet to pick up Game Two frm the NCAA?

That forward Davis, who broke the index finger on his right hand in an ACC tournament semifinal, received doctor's permission to remove the splint and took a few shots in practisw Sunday - "He did not experience any pain, but the splint was put back on, just to be safe." And 6-10 center LaGrade, own since Feb. 11 with a sprainged left knee, is working out; how much, if any, he can fo Thursday "depends on these practices" . . .

If Joe Namath and the Los Angeles Rams don't reach an agreement by today's "deadline," the N.Y. Jets won't sweat it. Namth's attorney, Jimmy Walsh, has extended until Friday the period during which the Rams may talk contract with the rich and famous and lately ineffective quarterback.

Anyway, North Carolina reports. Any if Friday hasn't seen a conclusion, they probably won't let that stop them either if mutual interest remains . . .

Another veteran qaurterback dickering for a change of scenery is Mike Phipps, put on the trading block by the Cleveland Browns at his request.

Phipps, the Brown's No. 1 draft choice eight years ago out ot Purdue, had a strong 1976 training camp and appeared finally ready to produce as expected, only to hurt his shoulder in the NFL season opener. Brian Sipe took over at QB and led the team to a 9-4 turnaround from the worst season in Browns history. Phipps reckons there will be no switching horses now and owner Art Modell agrees with him, saying he has never seen the two-quarterback system work.

"It didn't between Milt Plum and Jim Ninowski and Frank Ryan, between Ryan and Bill Nelsen, between Nelsen and Phipps, and now between Phipps and Sipe," Modell said. "It never did around the league either," he added, fingering such conbos as Bradshaw-Hanratty, Staubach-Morton, Sonny-Billy, etc. "And as (coach Forrest Gregg) has said, and I share the opinion, off last year's work Sipe has to be looked upon as our No. 1 quarterback."

Tradingwise, baseball's encore interleagye dealing period ends at minight tonight. The Baltimore Orioles are trying their darndest to wangle catcher Barry Foote from the Montreal Expos by then . . . the Nfl Dolphins and the City of Miami have initialed a 10-year lease for continued use of the Orange Bowl, but club owner Joe Robbie made sure of a loophole permitting him to get out on three years' notice if a new stadium is errected within a 250-miles radius . . .

The baseball Mets got a look at the proposed nes arrangement for the football Jets' use Shea Stadium on more favorble terms to the NFL entry and balked anew. Settle it soon or we move to New Jersey, the Jets threaten anew . . .

. . . Former big league first baseman Vic Power, who collected eight Gold Gloves for Fielding prowess, is laid up in Puerto Rico after suffering a "mil" heart attack over the weekend . . . Al Hrabosky, baseball's Mad Hungarian, is feeling sick. He looks positively angetic now that he has obeyed new skipper Vern Rapp's orders and shaven clean.

"I feel like I've lost my best friend," said the St. Louis Cardinals' left-handed bullpen denizen. "The Mad Hungarian is dead - now it's the happy Hungarian. Or unhappy Hungarian. I felt happier and more secure with my fu Manchu mustache. now my image is destroyed. I am no longer the insane maniac out there on the mound. I honestly believe my mustaches. I knew there were guys scared to face me.

"Most of all, I'm afraid it will turn off some of the fans. They loved the mad Hungarian image.I felt sometimes thwy wanted tosee a pitcher knocked out just so I could get in the game."

Hrabosky waited until the night before officials opening of spring training to shed his fu machu and come beard - "did it myself in the bathroom. I coudn't stand for people to see me cry."

O.K., Al. you're got us crying with you. Maybe you'll grow on Rapp too . . .