When they were finished with the three days of hard labor at Capital Centre, a neutral observer was left to wonder why they had bothered at all.

"That was more or less a practice game for us for the NCAA playoffs," said Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell, now a five-time loser in the final of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. "I hope this was a learning process to get us ready for five games in the NCAA."

"We are very happy to have won the 1981 league championship, but Virginia to me is the regular-season champion and that's harder to do," said North Carolina Coach Dean Smith, an eight-time winner in his 20 years at Carolina. "We've got a 25-win season to date and the ACC championship, but that's not where we want to be. We want to get the monkey off our back and win the first game of the NCAA. The media talks about our losing three first-round games and I remember them, too."

"I don't think it was just a practice game, but if we win big next Thursday I think we can forget this," said Maryland's Albert King.

Said guard Dutch Morley, involved in two key turnovers down the stretch, "The big one in the NCAA, but I think everybody here would give pretty much to have won this one, too, being losers two years in a row."

"We might be better off," Driesell said. "Those boys over there are celebrating and we ain't celebrating. We might even practice tonight. I ain't going to jump off the monument, don't worry. I told the team, 'There's no reason for you to be down, I've been here 12 years and I ain't won it. If I ain't down, you shouldn't be, either.'"

Maryland was forced to wear its white home uniforms, rather than the new gold outfits that had proved lucky in the first two games here.

"We wanted to wear our gold uniforms." King said. "Whenever you win games, you like to stick with it, but uniforms don't win games."

Neither, in the ACC final, does Driesell.

"I'm a religious man and the good Lord don't want me to win this tournament," Driesell said. "Maybe he wants me to win a national championship this year. There's got to be a reason for everything."