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The Experts Almost Agree on Four Finalists : McGuire Tabs Maryland as His Longshot Selection Out of Southeast Regional

SETTING THE PICKS Handicapping the NCAA This is the second in a four-part series offering basketball facts, humor and predictions for the NCAA basketball tournament from television analysts Al McGuire (left) and Billy Packer. McGuire, the former Marquette coach, and Packer, a longtime basketball commentator, became verbal sparring partners when both worked for NBC. Packer has since gone to CBS, but the sparring continues. The third part will appear next Tuesday, and the last on April 1, the day of the NCAA championship.

March 19, 1985|AL McGUIRE

Mothball-head Packer is a little disappointed today. You know how he loves the Atlantic Coast Conference. Heck, he thought all five of the ACC teams were going to get into the NCAA Final Four.

While he was working, I got my first weekend off, so I hung around Joe and Lenny's antique store in Milwaukee, talking about toy soldiers and blue-haired ladies and how to get into attics.

And, yeah, about the tournament, too. The regionals are when the chalks, the favorites, will shine on Thursday and Friday because the coaches have had time to prepare for their opponents.

But on Saturday and Sunday, you have to look for the outside horses, the longshots, because the coaches haven't had time to worry about their opponents. They just try to perfect what their teams do best.

Now, about that list of the five necessary ingredients to get a team into the Final Four:

--Each of the four will have a superstar, prime-time player who doesn't eat chokeberries. Ordinarily it's an upperclassman who doesn't get a lot of pub.

--It takes a good defensive team both full-court and half-court. This is important because, in the tournament, there's more concentration on holding the ball, working against the clock, icing the game.

--You must have a good foul-shooting team because the refs blow the whistle early and quick. And the absence of a shot clock creates a lot of intentional fouls in the last four or five minutes.

--You need a long bench, especially for the regional championship game, to cover up for any player having a game drought, or for any foul problems that might develop.

--And, finally, you need a coach who isn't governed by the players. No team comes to the Final Four with a coach who's just blowing up the practice balls. You need a coach with an aura that impresses the subconscious of the officials and the conscious of his players. A guy who's full of buffalo chips, in other words.

Now you want to know who's going to this year's Final Four, right?

Well, in the East, you have to take everybody's automatic, Georgetown. The big horse will go to the Dribble Derby unless it gets left in the gate or the jockey falls off. Loyola has the heart, but not the height. Illinois has George Montgomery down. And the Georgia Tech bench is very shallow. None of the other three has played Georgetown, which means they'll be psyched out, no matter what they may say. When they see John Thompson's white towel, they'll all want to grab it and throw it in.

As for the West, even though Mothball-head and I both picked 10 of the Sweet 16, at least I had Kentucky with two wins that he didn't. However, I think the Wildcats have gone as far as they can without a center. Bill Wennington of St. John's will be too much for them. And the Redmen have too many athletes for whoever wins the Alabama-N.C. State game. Look for Little Looie Carnesecca to drink his first mint julep.

The Midwest is the most difficult regional to handicap. You have three teams with superstars, Oklahoma, Memphis State and Louisiana Tech, and one eagle, Boston College, that's going to fly high and play with the clock. There's not a dime's worth of difference between Oklahoma and Memphis State, but I'll go with Oklahoma. As for Karl (The Mailman) Malone of Louisiana Tech, it'll be a case of return to sender, address unknown.

That leaves the Southeast. My sleeper, my Rip Van Winkle, is Maryland. What I did was just throw a dart at the board and hit Lefty Driesell right in the middle of his bald forehead. Maryland has the talent and it's due to win some close games, which should give the Terps the edge against Villanova. If Auburn stays hot, it could cause problems, but I look for North Carolina to handle the Tigers even with Steve Hale on the MASH list.

So there it is--Georgetown, St. John's, Oklahoma, and Maryland.

But let me also tell you something else. If I had a long overcoat with deep pockets and I was standing at Churchill Downs looking to be a tout, and if a guy came up to me and said he needed a longshot to get him well, you know what I'd give him?

Loyola of Chicago, that's who.

The dead-end kids are the second team from the Second City. They've lived in the shadow of the DePaul Blue Demons for so long that they seem determined to do something about it.

Yeah, yeah. I know they're in Georgetown's region, the East. But if any team has a mission, a sense of destiny, it might be the school that won the whole thing back in 1963.

How about that, Mothball-head?

(c), The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky. FO

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