Recalling Terps-'Pack classic

Plans discussed to mark 25th anniversary of 1974 tourney title game

Terps/ACC notebook

January 08, 1999|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

It happened in the month of March, in Greensboro, N.C., but the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest games in the history of college basketball might be marked on Feb. 10 in Raleigh, N.C.

That's when Maryland and N.C. State will play their second Atlantic Coast Conference game of the season. Their first meeting will come Sunday at Cole Field House, but the Terps' memories of March 9, 1974, aren't as fond as the ones carried by the Wolfpack.

In N.C. State's 103-100 overtime victory in the title game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the nation's No. 1 team held off No. 4.

The game pitted David Thompson, Tom Burleson and Monte Towe against Tom McMillen, Len Elmore and John Lucas, but the talent alone isn't what made it a classic. It was in the days when the NCAA tournament took only one team per conference, and it served as an impetus to the expansion of what has become a 64-team field.

Maryland coach Gary Williams and administrators from the ACC and N.C. State said plans for a celebration at N.C. State on Feb. 10 have been discussed, but nothing has been finalized. ESPN will televise the game, and vintage uniforms have been mentioned.

It's the 50th and final year at Reynolds Coliseum for N.C. State, which will honor its 1974 and '83 NCAA champions at a players reunion Feb. 21, when it plays Tulane. There has also been talk that the 1974 members of Maryland and N.C. State would be invited to their game Feb. 10.

In case you were wondering, Georgia State and coach Lefty Driesell are off that day.

Youth rules

Speaking of old-timers, Maryland and Clemson are the only teams in the ACC starting more than one senior.

"Duke has established itself as the unanimous choice to win the league, but it's still young," Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said of the front-runner, which starts three sophomores. "Teams are going to improve more between now and the end of the season, but the records won't be as gaudy as they've been some years."

The conference was hit by injuries, transfers and early exits, and it didn't exactly distinguish itself in November and December, when there weren't nearly as many major nonconference wins as last season. The eye-popping results had ACC teams on the wrong side: Clemson losing to Michigan, Georgia Tech falling to Hofstra and North Carolina going down against the College of Charleston.

There were complaints when the conference put only five teams in the NCAA tournament last season, but don't be surprised if only four ACC teams get 1999 bids, something that has happened only once since 1983. After Duke, Maryland and North Carolina, no one else bolstered its at-large case during the nonconference portion of the schedule.

Even Clemson, ranked No. 21 in the AP poll, was No. 73 in the Sagarin computer rating. The NCAA tournament selection committee doesn't measure inexperience. It is interested in improvement, but it's doubtful that a fifth team will emerge from the ACC's pack of also-rans as an at-large lock.

Late starters

Not all ACC teams began the season at full strength.

North Carolina finally has the full attention of guard Ronald Curry, probably the nation's top freshman athlete. He spent the fall focusing on football, in which he started at quarterback for a team that went to the Las Vegas Bowl, and it may be a while before the player from Hampton, Va., becomes a Tar Heels contributor.

"Ron said it takes him three to four weeks to get his basketball muscles working," coach Bill Guthridge said. "He's a smart young man, and he's learning, but he missed all of the September, October and November work. Overall, he's never really had that, but we're trying to give him a crash course."

Georgia Tech has a twin-towers look now that Indiana transfer Jason Collier, a 7-footer, has been paired with 6-11 Alvin Jones. Collier is a junior, but coach Bobby Cremins said, "It's almost like he's a freshman." The Yellow Jackets are as inconsistent as ever. They beat North Carolina three days after a 41-point loss to Kentucky.

Big, big men

Duke center Elton Brand is fourth in the conference in scoring and third in field-goal percentage, rebounding and blocks, but Maryland forward Terence Morris has been nearly as solid. The sophomore went into last night's game at Virginia second in field-goal percentage, fifth in free-throw percentage and blocks, seventh in scoring and 10th in rebounding.

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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