Around here, it's just called The Tournament.
Tobacco farmers who have never ventured to the other side of Interstate 40 and local textile magnates who have criss-crossed the globe agree: the Crosby, the Hope and the NCAA shindigs can't compare with what is properly known elsewhere as the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament.
Every year some names change - this time there are Gene Banks, Al King and Jeff Lamp - but the script remains the same: famous and fragile egos, the finest talent and crackling seven-way rivalry.
The Tournament is unique, emotional and the results can defy reason.
North Carolina and Duke have shown themselves to be a cut above the rest of the pack this year and should meet in Saturday's final. But Virginia has a 20-win season and a two-year habit of making the finals, Wake Forest has an emotional Rod Griffin playing his last tournament. Maryland has pride to resurrect, N.C. State has a healthy tournament history and Clemson, on NCAA probation, has nothing to lose.
All games in the tournament will be broadcast on WPRW-1460-AM, with some contests on television and other radio stations. Here are tomorrow's matchups: First Round DUKE (8-4, 20-6) vs. CLEMSON (3-9, 15-11)
DUKE coach Bill Foster has never taken his Blue Devils past the first round, but this year's team is his best. Veterans Jim Spanarkel at guard and Mike Gminski at center have teamed with super frosh Gene Banks at forward to form a nucleus that would excel at any school in the country.
Duke beat Clemson by 22 and 16 points during the season and this game figures to be the biggest mismatch of the tournament.
Spanarkel is deadly from the foul line, pumps in nearly 20 points a game and at 6-foot-5 is a mismatch with most other ACC guards. Gminski is chasing Grififn for the ACC rebounding title with almost 10 a game and Banks is an NBA-class dunker and passer when he is not on a cold streak.
CLEMSON could not accept the NCAA bid if it wins the tournament, which could make the Tigers immune to the pressure. But offensive liabilities loom everywhere, and unless forwards Stan Rome and Colon Abraham go on unexpected scoring tears, the Tigers should be through after the first round. Clemson is the smallest team in the league without much to make up for its lack of size.
Starting sophomore center John Campbell is expected to play despite the death Saturday of his father, who was hit by an automobile. Last year at about this time, Campbell lost a 10-year-old brother in a similar accident. Campbell's father will be buried Thursday. N.C. STATE (7-5, 18.8) vs. MARYLAND (3-9, 14-12) 14-12) 7 p.m., WJA WJLA-TV-7, WMAL-630
N.C. STATE thumped Maryland twice during the regular season but is coming off two poor games, barely beating a North Carolina team that did not suit up Phil Ford and Mike O'Koren, and losing to Wake Forest. State surprised most people this year, though, with the vastly improved play of point guard Clyde (The Glide) Austin. Tony Warren is underated and forward Hawkeye Whitney is coming out of a slump. If Whitney and center Glenn Sudhop can parlay three exceptional games, State could be the dark-horse winner.
N.C. State has reached the ACC final 11 times and won eight titles, tops in the league by one over North Carolina.
MARYLAND has been so inconsistent that no turn of events would be surprising. In a space of four days, Maryland played its best and worst games in the last two contests of the season. The team that beat Wake Forest Wednesday did not remotely resemble the team that lost to Virginia the following Saturday. The question is: Which Maryland team will show up? The good one features a dynamite front line of Lawrence Boston, shooting better than 55 percent and averaging nearly 15 points and seven rebounds, and freshman Al King, whose flawless game really gets the Terps in gear. Larry Gibson, the one from the good team, is a solid center. But the bad Maryland team, which loses the ball 20 times a game and botches its two or three fast breaks, can't count on going past the first round. Coach Lefty Driesell is angry about the criticism he and his team have received and maybe the Terps will respond. VIRGINIA (6-6, 20-6) vs. WAKE FOREST (6-6, 17-9) 9 p.m., WJLA-TV-7
VIRGINIA's offense centers around guard Jeff Lamp, who shot under 40 percent in conference games.Coach lineup at the end of the season, benching center Steve Castellan in an effort to get more points from his defense minded Cavaliers. Virginia's front line is a pet dislike of Wake Forest's Rod Griffin, who says the Cavs' tactics "get out of hand." Wake and Virginia split their games this year and, because both teams had up-and-down seasons anything could happen in this game. Virginia lost four of its last five conference games and may have a confidence problem.
But Virginia has enjoyed an amazing rate of success in the first round, winning seven of the last eight, including three straight over Wake Forest.
WAKE FOREST starts the best forward in the conference in All-America senior Rod Griffin, who says his only remaining goal is - get this - a national championship. "I think we can do it," Griffin said. Actually, when 6-10 center Larry Harrison plays the way he did in the final game against N.C. State, scoring 28 points, and when guard Frank Johnson in on target, there is no better team in the conference. Harrison and Griffin wipe the boards clean. But when Griffin is double-teamed, Harrison, Johnson and senior forward Leroy McDonald must pick up he slack and avoid the cold streaks they have had.
An emotionally charged Griffin is not to be taken lightly - Wake beat Both Duke and Carolina this year. The Deacons lost all their ACC games on the road, but play well in Greensboro. NORTH CAROLINA (bye)
NORTH CAROLINA, like Wake Forest, has an emotional senior leader whose influence can alter a game. Phil Ford, who may win his first ACC player-of-the-year award, is playing at his best. Carolina has been a bridesmaid at the NCAA tournament, and Al McGuire says of Coach Dean Smth, "He's really due. He's come too close too many times."
Ford appears to be fully recovered from his sprained left wrist, and by the time Carolina's game rolls around Thursday, forward Mike O'Koren should have his sprained ankle back in shape. Even without these star players, the Tar Heels gave N.C. State a sacre and it's difficult to imagine this tournament-savvy team being kept out of the NCAA playoffs. If they don't win the ACC tourney, they would probably get an at-large berth. But the Tar Heels are still the team to best, despite a weakness at center.