North Carolina, leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in victories and injured starters, visits Cole Field House at 3 p.m. today, hard-pressed to preserve its three-year streak of six victories over Maryland.
The 19th-ranked Terrapins can take over first place in the ACC for the first time since 1975 if they can capitalize on the absence of Carolina's All-America forward Mike O'Koren and starting point guard Dave Colescott, both of whom will remain in Chapel Hill.
In addition, the leading scoer for the second-ranked Tar Heels, forward Al Wood, fell through a glass door Thursday night at his dormitory and cut his left hand.
He required several stitches on two fingers, spent the night in the infirmary, did not dress for yesterday's practice and is listed as questionable for the game, which will be shown on WJLA-TV-7.
UNC is 13-2 overall and 4-1 in the ACC. Maryland is off to its best conference start in four years, 3-1, following recent opening records of 1-3, 1-3 and 1-7.
The Terps are 12-4 overall, riding the talents of the ACC's leading rebounder (forward Buck Williams), top percentage shooter (center Larry Gibson), leading free throw shooter (Greg Manning), leading assist man (Dutch Morley) and No. 3 and No. 5 scorers (guard Ernest Graham and forward Al King).
The Tar Heels' injuries came one by one during a giddy six-day span in which they defeated Duke, Arkansas and N. C. State, all ranked in the top 20 nationally.
Colescott went down in the early moments of last Saturday's Duke game after colliding with Mike Gminski's elbow. He suffered a fracture in the floor of his orbit (or eye socket bone) and is out indefinitely.
O'Koren suffered a moderately severe ankle sprain in the final minutes of the victory over N. C. State.
UNC Coach Dean Smith, who has lost to Lefty Driesell-coached Maryland teams only six times in 20 games, will start either Pete Budko or Rich Yonakor in place of O'Koren. Swingman John Virgil may see more action than usual if Wood is unable to play effectively.
The preseason predictions had Carolina barely making the top 20 nationally and it was picked to finish third in the ACC behind Duke and N.C. State. This was all because of the disappearance of one Phil Ford, the all-planet point guard.
These popular suppositions angered many people inside and outside Carolina. An opposing assistant coach, partially irked at the image of Smith as a miracle worker, snapped at one reporter, "I wish you people would do some research. Do you know how many high school All-Americas they have?"
Conducting a census, a reporter found five: O'Koren, Wood, Colescott, Virgil and Budko.
"A lot of people forgot that there was more than just Phil on the team," said Dudley Bradley, who was selected over Maryland's Gibson as Baltimore's high school player of the year his senior season.
"Phil was such a great player that apparently people neglected to see everyone on the team was pretty good.
"That kind of motivated us. Now, everyone looks at each other as a team. There is not the individual line of thinking, now that we don't have a standout.
"O'Koren is an All-America, but Phil was a point guard, the player everyone noticed, the player we always counted on to take the last shot. This year, we don't know who will take the last shot."
Bradley has been the hero of late, winning games not so much with his shooting as with his steals and defensive play: the trademark of this year's Carolina team.
In the only other game matching ACC opponents today, Clemson plays at 1 p.m. at Virginia.