When the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament opens its exercise in pandemonium today, the question is: Can any school outside the State of North Carolina survive the first round?
Virginia (20-6, 6-6 in the ACC) appears to have the best chance, taking on Wake Forest (17-9, 6-6) in the 9 p.m. game (WJLA-TV-7).
Maryland (14-12, 3-9), which came unglued four nights ago against Virginia, does not seem to be a threat to beat N.C. State (18-8, 7-5) in the 7 p.m. game (WJLA-TV-7, WMALAM 630).
There is also little hope for the other out-of-stater, Clemson (15-11, 3-9), which plays the 3 p.m. opener against Duke (20-6, 8-4), (WPRW-AM, 1460).
Conference champion North Carolina (23-6, 9-3), which is the bracket with Virginia and Wake, has a bye until tomorrow night's semifinals. The final is Saturday afternoon.
Terrapin Coach Lefty Driesell has suffered through his worst season since he started building good teams at Maryland in the early '70s, and twice his frustration has peaked.
After losing to Notre Dame on national television. Driesell rubbed his eyes furiously and said , "This is one of those seasons I'll just be glad when it's over." Although Driesell later said he didn't mean that literally, he may get his wish today.
Maryland's performance against Virginia in the last game of the regular season was so disorganized that Driesell lashed out at his team and stormed out of the gymnasium.
Driesell said last week he would not change his starting lineup but it is possible he will do just that tonight, replacing Jo Jo Hunter at guard and giving freshman Ernest Graham his first start.
Driesell is as adept at changing his mind as he is his lineup, and Graham has worked out almost exclusively with the first team in practice. That almost always is an indication of whom Driesell wll start.
Graham's defensive ability, which earned him playing minutes in the first place, will be needed against State's Tony Warren, who troubled Maryland in both its defeats to State in the regular season.
State alos runs a troublesome zone defense, so Driesell said of the earlier we did," Driesell said of the earlier meetings. "We have to play with confidence, together, and we can win the ACC Tournament."
In the avalanche of analysis Maryland has undergone this year, one diagnosis keeps coming up: Maryland needs a strong floor leader. But Driesell still disputes that.
"Internal leadership is something I don't understand myself," he said. "It's the type of individuals who make up a team that determines that. I don't think one guy can turn everybody around."
Clemson Coach Billy Foster was in good spirits yesterday, despite the seemingly overwhelming task ahead for his team.
"We're definitely the underdogs," said Foster. "I think we'll play good defense (the Tigers have that word across the seats of their practice uniforms). Whether we play 'man' or zone, we'll play defense well.
"The key for us is to make our easy stuff offensively. The free throws, the 10-footers. Duke will score: I don't care what defense you throw at them. But I wouldn't say they're a strong defensive team. They give you opportunities, but if we don't take advantage of them, it could be a long day."
Last season's ACC player of the year, Rod Griffin, says he is confident his Wake Forest team can defeat Virginia.
"We just have to play well, the way we know we can play," said Griffin. "We have to get on the boards."
"I think we're ready," said Wake guard Frank Johnson.