That it may have been was a preview of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final. What it was, without a doubt, was one of the best ACC games ever.
"On a scale from one to 10, I'd call the game a Bo Derek," said North Carolina's Matt Doherty of top-ranked North Carolina amazing comeback from a 16-point deficit in the second half to beat No. 3 Virginia, 64-63.
The Cavaliers seemed invincible in the middle of the game, scoring 17 straight points during one stretch. With 4:12 left, the Cavaliers led, 63-53. But the Tar Heels' defense played furiously, denying Ralph Sampson the ball for the rest of the game and pressuring Virginia's guards into three costly turnovers.
The final turnover cost Virginia the game and a chance at avenging a home-court loss to North Carolina last month. Michael Jordan ran up behind Virginia's Rick Carlisle in the back court and stripped him of the ball. "I never saw him," said Carlisle. "I just felt it being taken away."
Jordan dribbled 30 feet and dunked with 51 seconds left for the winning basket.
Jordan had tipped in Jimmy Braddock's missed shot with 1:04 left to bring the Tar Heels within one point 16 seconds after Sampson blew an opportunity to assure Virginia victory by missing the front end of a bonus free throw set. Jordan also rebounded Carlisle's missed shot with time running out.
"I hope we get them again in Atlanta (the ACC tournament)," Sampson said afterward.
"I don't think we're developing a complex about them," said Othell Wilson. "Remember, we beat them twice in the regular season two years ago and they beat us in the NCAA (semifinals). We could play them again."
Tar Heels Coach Dean Smith's joy was tempered however, by the news that sophomore guard Buzz Peterson will miss the rest of the season with a torn knee ligament he suffered during the game. Peterson, a 51 percent shooter, is the team's third guard and its second biggest three-point threat. Smith is hoping freshman guard Curtis Hunter will return soon from a fractured foot.
ACC athletic directors have decided to keep the three-point field goal for the league tournament in March, despite criticism from several coaches.
"It's not so much that we liked the three-pointer," said Dick Dull of Maryland, "but we adopted it for the tournament and it's not proper for the conference to gravitate back and forth."
The possibility of dropping the controversial 19-foot three-pointer was expected to be a major topic among the athletic directors at their winter meeting in Innisbrook, Fla., which ended today. Dull said there was some "mild, general conversation" about the three-point rule, which they adopted last spring, but that no formal vote was taken.