ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
THE TAR HEELS
Brad Daugherty loves the country sounds of Hank Williams Jr. He even got to meet the singer backstage at a concert this summer. But Daugherty isn't crazy about the title of Williams's latest hit, This Ain't Dallas. Daugherty is anxious to see Dallas, the site of this year's Final Four. For Daugherty, Steve Hale and James Daye, all seniors, it hasn't been Lexington, Seattle or Albuquerque, either. (Fifth-year senior Warren Martin was a freshman on the 1982 NCAA championship team. That was New Orleans.)
North Carolina hasn't won an ACC tournament since 1982, either, so this veteran team is hungry. "We've talked about it," Hale says. "We've won the regular-season title three times and we've been ranked number one on various occasions. We have reason to be optimistic. We have virtually the same personnel as last season with some great freshmen added."
Only sixth man Buzz Peterson and two seldom-seen walk-ons have departed from the team that threw itself under Villanova's wheels in the second half of the NCAA Southeast Regional final. No one can bang with a front line of the 6'11" Daugherty, 6'10" power forward Dave Popson, 6'10" small forward Joe Wolf and the 6'11" Martin. Hale, who is better known for his defense, can score from the outside, and there are coaches who would rather have junior point guard Kenny Smith than Georgia Tech's Mark Price.
So what's missing? By moving to the big lineup, coach Dean Smith sacrificed ball handling; last season the Tar Heels had 103 more turnovers than their opponents. "When you play two centers, you throw the ball away more," Smith says, "and the price we paid was more than the little bit of [extra] rebounding was worth. We still haven't solved the problem."
Carolina also lacked a dependable player, like another Michael Jordan, who could be counted on to take—and make—the key shot. "Our team got into such a good habit of passing the ball that sometimes it was overpowering," Daugherty says. "We were being unselfish, but we were hurting ourselves. Our unity was so great that sometimes we made mistakes."
"One day in practice," coach Smith says, "Hale was wide open for a 15-footer, but he tried to feed the ball inside and flipped it out of bounds. He should have taken the shot. But I wouldn't want one player to think that he must take charge. You have to get a good shot. What made our [school-record] 54 percent shooting average even better than it appears is that we didn't have many easy layups. And that's because we lacked quickness."
Big and quick don't have to be mutually exclusive, but they have been in Chapel Hill since 1982. Three Tar Heel freshmen—guard Jeff Lebo and forwards Steve Bucknall and Kevin Madden—should help alleviate that. Lebo, on everybody's list of top recruits last year, is 6'2" and 180 pounds of court presence. He'll play third guard behind Hale and Kenny Smith. Bucknall is a native of London who came to the States to matriculate at a Massachusetts prep school after being touted as an up-and-comer to former Celtic Dave Cowens. Both Bucknall and Madden are 6'5", 215 and promising, but with junior Curtis Hunter ahead of them as the bench spark, they'll be worked in slowly.
The biggest, slowest newcomer isn't 6'10", 211-pound center Marty Hensley (who may be redshirted). That distinction belongs to the 150', megaton Student Activities Center, the new 21,400-seat arena that is to replace Carmichael Auditorium. With much fanfare, tradition-laden UCLA was signed to inaugurate the arena on national TV on Nov. 24. But now the SAC probably won't open until Duke comes to town Jan. 18. Thus, Carmichael will get one last hurrah. Come Dallas, maybe the seniors will have one, too.
After some non-stellar years, Carolina is well-Heeled with the likes of Smith (left) and Daugherty.