The shot of the season to be the one put up or, rather, put down by North Carolina's Geff Crompton against Providence.
There was Crompton, on regional television, in all his 299-pound 9-foot-9 gargantuan glory, standing right outside the lane ready to pounce on the poor, unsuspecting ball and the poor, unsuspecting ball somehow wound up in Crompton's hands.
Crompton did not soar because (1) he doesn't have to, and (2) he can't. Crompton hardly jumped, to be exact. No matter. It was dynamite dunk time. The big guy took the ball up . . . and brought it down.
The ball did not find its way to the bottom of the net. Nor did it rattle off the iron. Or strike the backboard. Instead, it plummeted straight down at what appeared to be 250 miles a second and smashed into the floor boards. The boards quaked. Trouble was, Crompton had dunked his shot over the basket, from one side to the other, not in it.
Ah, yes, college boys. They make roundball so exciting. And the ACC Tournament which begins Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C., annually provides more than its share of thrills.
"The point spread for the opening game will have N.C. State 5 over Maryland, Duke 9 over Clemson and Wake Forest 6 over Virginia," a voice from Las Vegas said late yesterday afternoon. The voice belonged to Lem Banker, a sports fanatic known to back his opinions with a buck or two (thousand).
Banker foresees North Carolina a three-point favorite over Wake Forest and Duke favored by four against N.C. State Thursday night if form prevails. He then would consider Carolina a one-or-two point favorite over Duke for the title.
"Wake Forest is the most dangerous team among the underdogs," Banker volunteered. "They have played on the Greensboro court five times this year. Carolina has been on it three times, Duke and State twice each. That's an edge. It's why Wake will be 6 instead of 4 or 5 over Virginia on Wednesday. The line will be shaded."
Banker believes Carolina's tournament experience, buttressed by Dean Smith's coaching, again will earn the championship for the Tar Heels.Mike O'Koren was not 100 percent for last Saturday's against Duke but should be improved by the time N.C. gets into action Thursday.
"I also like the fact Crompton is eligible for the tournament, after having had to sit out the last four games of the regular season," Banker said. "With (Rich) Yonakor out, Crompton is going to help Carolina considerably against (Mike) Gminski, the Duke center. He is physical enough to bother him."
Indeed, Crompton is physical enough to lean on the Tower of Pisa should he so choose.
What this ACC tournament should come down to is Duke's three-man team edging past Carolina's two-man team in the final unless Smith can create another of his many monor miracles.
Banker intends to back all three underdogs Wednesday - "There's more lasting intensity withthe team that is losing," he observed - and I will tag along with Virginia getting 6 since that spread appears to be a trifle high. Terry Holland's Cavalier clubs are usually beautifully prepared for the tournament. Virginia has spent too much of the season looking for only Jeff Lamp to shoot the ball, however.
Maryland could upset State, but don't bet on it. I will string along with Carolina giving Wake 3 points and Duke giving State 4 (or Maryland any number) should those match ups occur Thursday, as expected. Then I would top everything off with Duke getting as many points as I can steal against Carolina.
Phil Ford receives most of the ACC publicity. He deserves it. Yet I like Jim Spanarkel almost as much. He is the cleverest player in the conference and he has a better supporting cast in Gminski and the fine freshman, Gene Banks.
Duke is stronger on the inside than Carolina. It would take another superior shooting performance from the outside by Ford, and an assist underneath defensively from Crompton, to keep the Blue Devils from reversing Saturday's 87-83 loss at Chapel Hill.
Go with the strength, always. Just don't tell Crompton I said so. And please, Carolina, give us all plenty of warning should the big fellow attempt to repeat his Act of Providence somewhere along the line.