There has been no gloating from Dave Gavitt this weekend, the Big East commissioner hasn't been running around North Carolina screaming, "I told you so! I told you so!" But he could have.

Villanova, which plays top-ranked North Carolina at noon Sunday (WDVM-TV-9) in the East Regional final, is one of three teams from the Big East Conference among the six teams still competing for the NCAA championship.

"This is terrific," Gavitt said today. "I must admit, though, that I never thought we'd have three teams alive at this stage of the tournament."

When the NCAA selection committee, of which Gavitt is chairman, invited four Big East teams--Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's and Boston College--to the championship tournament, there was considerable criticism.

Bradley Coach Dick Versace, whose team was not invited, spoke out against Gavitt for wielding too much weight in the selection process and, in effect, said Boston College didn't belong in the tournament.

Now, after three teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and four from the Big Ten have been eliminated, Georgetown, Boston College and Villanova still are playing.

When Villanova (24-7) takes on North Carolina (29-2) in Reynolds Coliseum, it will be the first meeting this season between schools from the Big East and the ACC. The Tar Heels, under Dean Smith, one of Gavitt's closest friends, will be heavily favored.

"Deep down inside, I'd love to see Villanova win," said Gavitt.

Asked if he thought the Big East were as good as the ACC, Gavitt smiled and said, "We're getting close, but the ACC and Big Ten have played this way for years and years. This is only our third year as a conference. It's very flattering for us to be compared with the ACC.

"But I don't feel the success we have had in the tournament was necessary to vindicate the selection process. The selection process will always be criticized."

Gavitt shied from discusing Versace's statements, but did say, "He has every right to be disappointed, but showed a certain amount of ignorance. He did a disservice to the Big East teams."

One striking thing about those teams is way they are rooting for each other. Gavitt said officials from Boston College and Georgetown called his hotel room here to congratulate Villanova on its 70-66 overtime defeat of No. 9 Memphis State in Friday night's semifinal.

"During the year," said Villanova forward Aaron Howard, "we were fighting and battling with each other. But now, BC and Georgetown are part of the family, and it's strange that we're all rooting for each other. But it's really good that they're winning."

For Villanova to beat North Carolina and join the final four in New Orleans, the Wildcats will have to play superbly in every phase.

The Tar Heels, with a big advantage at the foul line, defeated Alamaba, 74-69, in Friday night's other semifinal here. The key matchup appears to be Howard versus all-America James Worthy. The Tar Heels must contain Ed Pinckney, the forward who has been overshadowed by such other freshmen as Georgetown's Patrick Ewing and North Carolina's Michael Jordan, but is equally as important to Villaova's success. Pinckney is third in the nation in field goal percentage, at 65 percent.

Asked if his players would be overwhelmed and in awe of the Tar Heels and their ACC mystique, Coach Rollie Massimino replied, "When you play Boston College and Georgetown as much as we have, you're prepared for some pretty tough basketball."