Jim Valvano still remembers the dunk.

Not The Dunk, the one Lorenzo Charles hammered home to give North Carolina State the national championship two years ago against Houston.

This dunk came earlier that evening. Much earlier. "It was Thurl Bailey and it made the score 6-0," Valvano said last week. "But it was just so important because people had said we wouldn't be in the game. When Thurl dunked with authority that way, I knew we were going to be in the game. I jumped off the bench and started screaming at Houston, 'We're gonna beat you guys, we're gonna kick your butts!'

"It was very early, but it was really a significant moment in the game."

Monday night, Georgetown and Villanova will meet here to decide the 1985 national champion. Perhaps there will be a moment, frozen in time forever, that will become a part of the game's lore. Perhaps not.

Either way, there will be moments when the coaches, John Thompson of Georgetown and Rollie Massimino of Villanova, must make crucial decisions. One could decide a title.

Remember 1977? North Carolina had come from 12 points down to tie Marquette with 12 minutes to go. North Carolina Coach Dean Smith ordered his team into the four corners spread. At that moment, Mike O'Koren was sitting at the scorer's table, waiting to return to the game to replace his sub, Bruce Buckley.

Smith considered calling time to get O'Koren back in the game. But that's not his style. O'Koren sat and Buckley, from Bladensburg, Md., had a shot blocked by Marquette's Bo Ellis. The Warriors immediately scored and Carolina never got even.

Should Smith have spread out when he had momentum? It had worked all season. Should he have called time? He hadn't before. To this day, people still debate the questions.

Because NCAA title games have become so much a part of the fabric of American sport, there are moments in almost every one that people talk about years later.

Some don't even need full explanation: In '83, there was The Dunk. In 1982, there was The Pass, Georgetown's Fred Brown passing to North Carolina's James Worthy with five seconds left and the Hoyas going for the winning shot, trailing by one.

Should Thompson have called time to set up that final play?

Thompson always has said he doesn't regret not calling time. Today, his memories of that game are more emotional than clinical.

"I remember having to work hard that night to remind myself to be competitive because of my feelings for Dean Smith," he said today. "That man has given me so much it was hard for me to feel the way I wanted to before the game. I didn't want to think about all Dean had done for me."

As the first half of that game ended, Thompson broke into an argument Smith was having with the officials, raging, "Don't let him run the damn game!"

Today, he smiled at that memory. "I had to be certain I was doing everything I could," he said. "That moment was part of it."

Monday, Thompson and Massimino will face more moments of decision. Some will establish tone, a level of emotion, intensity. Others will involve strategy. Each will try to do what is normal for as long as is possible: The Hoyas will press and run, the Wildcats will back off and walk. That is what has put each team here.

But at some point, the coach with the lead probably will have to decide when to hold the ball. The other coach will have to decide how long to wait before chasing or fouling.

If Georgetown's Patrick Ewing gets two fouls in 10 minutes, does he play or does he sit? Same question for Massimino if his center, Ed Pinckney, picks up two fouls early.

If the inside isn't there early, does the coach keep punching the ball inside or does he tell his perimeter players to shoot? Does he change his offense? How soon? Thompson has the extra question of when to substitute and how much. Massimino will use only seven players -- at most. What about before the game? Does the coach lie and tell his players it's just another game? have fun? Or does he do what Valvano did in 1983?

"I went crazy in the locker room," he said. "I didn't plan it but when I was through talking game plan, it suddenly hit me how much I wanted to win, how bad I wanted it. By the time we went on the court, I was spent."

Then came the dunk. And later, The Dunk.

Monday, Thompson and Massimino will face that. The locker room, the warmups. Saturday, as his players loosened up 90 minutes before the semifinal against Memphis State, Massimino noticed Pinckney, who had a cold, breaking a sweat.

"R.C.," Massimino said, yelling for his son, a junior guard. "Go tell Eddie to cool it. It's too early." Pinckney cooled off, then played 39 minutes even though he was sick.

Whatever happens in Rupp Arena Monday, each coach will take home one abiding memory. Thompson's 1984 memory came in the last minute of the victory over Houston:

"I was standing there looking at the clock, thinking, 'Get to zero,' when I realized I didn't remember ever getting up off the bench. Then, I think I knew it had finally happened."

Monday, it will happen again for one of the coaches. Before it does, each man will face that moment of decision, even if he might not know it at the time.