Georgetown will beat Maryland. Georgetown will play Kentucky for the national championship. Kentucky will win, 79-69. These and other predictions will be explained in the next few hundred words, but first we hear from a dear reader, John W. Lee of Alexandria, who sends along a mash note.
Mr. Lee says, "Well, Dave, glad to see you finally decided to join the Maryland bandwagon. The timing, for you, is just about right." Though he disagreed with my Sunday dissertation claiming Maryland beat Tennessee because it was the better team. Mr. Lee was deeply impressed by the analysis. "Typical Kindred Bull!" he called it.
This was to be a March when I made no predictions on the NCAA tournament. Anyone with half a brain knows college basketball is unpredictable. Seven of the top 16 seeded teams already have been eliminated from the 48-team tournament, and perhaps as many as eight of the remaining 16 are good enough to win the thing.
But with readers such as Mr. Lee plainly eager for more insight into the NCAA tournament. I would be derelict in passing another day without making predictions on how the tournament will turn out.
Barely a minute passes, for example, until someone on the street says, "What the heck is a Hoya?"
In a roaring world of Wildcats, Tigers and Lions, no one is set to trembling by the possibility of combat with a Hoya. Say the word quickly. Hoy-a! Sounds like recess at Karate school. Hoy-a! Is it served with snow peas at the best Chinese restaurants or what?
A long, long time ago (the story goes), the Georgetown University football team was so mighty, so unyielding on defense -- nigh unto invincible -- that the Georgetown students were moved to send up a cheer of "Hoya Saxa!"
That's Greek for "What rocks!"
There stood Jackson like a stone wall, there stood the Georgetown footballers like rocks.
"We're rocks and we're going to crush you," said a Georgetown student last weekend when a Syracuse Orangeman, calling the kettle black, asked what's a Hoya.
Anyway, now that Mr. Lee has demanded it, I put in my annual early March telephone call to Basketball Bill in Louisville. An upright accountant from 9 to 5, Bill is a basketball addict after dark. The last two years, he correctly predicted the winner of the NCAA tournament. Connoisseurs of Tyupical Bull know that Bill used this space to pick Kentucky in 1978 and Michigan State in 1979.
He's picking Kentucky again.
"I don't want to look like I'm just a homer," Basketball Bill said, "but Kentucky has the depth and conditioning to do it. And Sam Bowie (the 6-foot-11 freshman center) has shown remarkable improvement. The key will be Kyle Macy's health."
Macy is Kentucky's all-American guard. During the recent Southeastern Conference tournament, he came down ill, nearly passing out in one game. Tests have not determined what's wrong. Though Macy led Kentucky in scoring in its 97-78 victory over Florida State in the NCAA-opener, some strange things are happening.
"Macy was six-for-eight shooting the first half and then 0-for-eight the second half," Bill said. "He claimed the ball wasn't round."
Say again, please.
"Kyle was dribbling upcourt and suddenly the ball just bounced sideways out of bounds. He showed it to the referee and said it was lopsided, like a Globetrotter funny ball, but the referee laughed at him."
Bill didn't laugh. "Look, if Kyle Macy says the ball isn't round, the ball isn't round. It's like Jack Nicklaus saying a golf ball doesn't have the right number of dimples. You'd have Deane Beman counting the dimples."
Basketball Bill picks Syracuse to win the East Regional by beating Maryland, likes LSU over Louisville in the Midwest, Kentucky over Purdue in the Mideast and Clemson over Ohio State in the West.
He sees a Kentucky-LSU game for the national championship.
"LSU has remarkable talent," he said, "and Dale Brown is doing an infinitely better coaching job than ever. They've already beaten Kentucky twice in three games, but not this one."
Bill likes Maryland over Georgetown because he saw the Hoyas lose to Boston College on national television and believes the ACC regular season champion is better than anyone who can't beat B.C.
That makes sense, except that the Georgetown of today is not the Georgetown of then, for then the Hoyas were searching for a way to win and today they have found it: they have seven solid players who can run with anyone and are stronger than most.
But, the most important thing Georgetown has is what any team needs to beat Maryland -- a great guard. Georgetown's John Duren, wonderful at both ends of the floor, must beat Maryland's Greg Manning. In important games, Manning's scoring makes Maryland a winner. If Duren can stop Manning -- allow him no more than 15 points, say --Georgetown's other strengths will produce a victory.
Across the front line, Maryland's trio of Albert King, Buck Williams and Ernest Graham is weak only when Graham is asked to rebound and play defense.
Georgetown, meanwhile, comes with five front-line players -- Craig Shelton, Ed Spriggs, Al Dutch, Mike Frazier and Eric Smith ii who are Hoyas in spirit as well as in nickname. These guys are rocks under the boards and defensively.
Georgetown's guards, Duren and Eric Floyd, are a better 1-2 ofensive punch than anyone Manning and Reggie Jackson have been asked to defend against all season.
Unless something untoward happens -- Shelton in early foul trouble, say, or Albert King scoring 40 points as he might -- Georgetown is strong enough to beat Maryland rebounding and quick enough to beat the Terps defensively, which is, in most games, enough to win.
Then Georgetown will beat Syracuse for the third time in a month to win the East Regional and will defeat Louisville, the Midwest winner over LSU, in one semifinal of the final four at Indianapolis on March 22.
On the other side, Kentucky will beat Indiana for the Mideast championship, thanks in part to playing on its home court in fromt of 23,000 Basketball Bills. And in the second final four semifinal, Kentucky will eliminate West champion Ohio State (which beat something called Lamar to get that far).
Then it's Kentucky against Georgetown, and Kentucky's 10-man depth will be too much for even the rock-hardest Hoya.