Dean-Less Heels Get Navy Again
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The last time North Carolina played an NCAA tournament game without Dean Smith as coach was 1959 when the Tar Heels lost to Navy.
On Thursday, the post-Dean postseason era begins against none other than Navy.
``We’re trying to snap a 52-year losing streak to Navy,″ said Bill Guthridge, Smith’s longtime assistant and successor. ``We’ve lost four in a row to them and six of seven.″
Guthridge’s dry sense of humor matches Smith’s, and so does his degree of success, so far. The Tar Heels (30-3) come in as the nation’s top-ranked team and the No. 1 seed in the East Regional.
``I haven’t done a lot of the detail things I used to. I delegate that,″ Guthridge said Wednesday when asked the difference of getting ready for the tournament as the man in charge rather than as an assistant. ``One thing, I’ve spent a lot more time with the media than I did as an assistant.″
And that could affect his relationship with the man he sat beside for 30 years on the North Carolina bench.
``I talked to Dean last night as he was getting ready to go to New York to work in the studio (for CBS),″ Guthridge said. ``I’m a little hesitant to talk to him because he’s with the media now.″
In the other game in Thursday’s afternoon doubleheader at the Hartford Civic Center, No. 8 North Carolina Charlotte faces No. 9 Illinois-Chicago. The night doubleheader has No. 5 Princeton against No. 12 UNLV and No. 4 Michigan State against No. 13 Eastern Michigan.
Navy (19-10), the Patriot League champion, does have a 14-5 advantage in the series with North Carolina, the last win coming in the first round of the 1959 tournament when the Tar Heels were coached by Frank McGuire. Smith took over in 1961, went on to become the winningest coach in the history of college basketball and send North Carolina on a streak of 23 straight NCAA appearances.
Guthridge made it 24.
``Dean Smith is the greatest coach of all time and I enjoyed every moment with him,″ Guthridge said. ``I’m just trying to continue what he did. I’m just trying to be Bill Guthridge, not Dean Smith. He recruited these players and he trained me.″
Among those players is Antawn Jamison, the leading vote-getter on the AP All-America team, the first Carolina player to be Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year since Michael Jordan in 1984 and the first to average 20 points and 10 rebounds for a season since Billy Cunningham in 1964-65.
Jamison was slowed in last weekend’s ACC tournament by a groin injury but he still was named MVP, averaging 20.7 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 55 percent.
``I’m about 100 percent,″ he said Wednesday. ``Yesterday I went full out and it felt good.″
That can’t be good news for 16th-seeded Navy, which will have Hassan Booker covering the 6-foot-8 Jamison and giving away five inches.
``He’s a good player but I’ve played against other good players in my league and he’s just another player and I have to play with the same intensity,″ Booker said. ``It’s no different than any other player I played against. Really.″
Navy coach Don DeVoe likened Jamison to one of his former players at Tennessee, Dale Ellis.
``He makes the game look so easy,″ said DeVoe, who has taken the Midshipmen to the tournament in consecutive years for the first time since the David Robinson era. ``Jamison just kind of glides around the court. When he decides to turn it on he can and can make those spectacular plays. The thing I like most about him is his aggressiveness on the boards. He’s relentless.″
Illinois-Chicago is one of four schools playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time. It is also one of three in the field of 64 from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, a league not used to such representation.
``I think we’ve got to continue to play well,″ Flames coach Jimmy Collins said. ``History shows that mid-Division I conferences are never going to get the total respect that power conferences get. We’ve got to continue to play well and show everyone that we’re on the rise.″
UIC (22-5) is led by MCC player of the year Mark Miller, who averaged 20.1 points per game while shooting 41 percent from 3-point range.
North Carolina Charlotte (19-10) is led by forward DeMarco Johnson, who averaged 20.7 points and 9.0 rebounds.
``I think the matchup is difficult for both teams,″ Collins said. ``Every time we play a team with a good post player with the ability of a Johnson, we always have problems. Their perimeter guys are tall so we can present problems with our quickness. It should be a game of chess.″
UNCC coach Melvin Watkins didn’t seem too concerned with the matchup.
``That could be a problem for us,″ he said of UIC’s quickness. ``They shoot the ball well and don’t turn it over very often and play some heady basketball. We have always found a way to get the job done and we expect to do that again tomorrow afternoon.″
Princeton (26-1) has the best record in the field and the Tigers go against what may be the hottest team in the tournament. UNLV 20-12) won the Western Athletic Conference title last week by beating Hawaii, Utah, Fresno State and New Mexico in a four-day stretch.
Michigan State (20-7) comes in off a disappointing quarterfinal loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament after having lost to Purdue in its regular-season finale.
The Spartans have to face state rival Eastern Michigan (20-9), the champions of the Mid-American Conference who are led by 5-5 Earl Boykins, one of the country’s quickest guards who averaged 26 points and 5.7 assists this season.