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At a Glance
NCAA Champion--Michigan State (26-6; coached by Jud Heathcote/third of 19 seasons with Spartans; tied for first place in Big Ten with a 13-5 record).
NIT Champion--Indiana (22-12; coached by Bob Knight/eighth of 29 seasons with Hoosiers; finished in fifth place in Big Ten with a 10-8 record).
New Rules--The NCAA Tournament bracket expands from 32 teams to 40 and each entrant is seeded for the first time. . . . Three-man officiating crews are assigned to all tournament games. . . . NIT field expands from 16 teams to 24.
NCAA Probation--Cincinnati, Grambling, Hawaii, UNLV.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans--Larry Bird, F-C, Sr., Indiana State (28.6 ppg, 14.9 rpg, 5.5 apg, 53.2 FG%, 83.1 FT%); Mike Gminski, C, Jr., Duke (18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 51.9 FG%); David Greenwood, F, Sr., UCLA (19.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 58.7 FG%, 81 FT%); Earvin "Magic" Johnson, G, Soph., Michigan State (17.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.4 apg, 2.3 spg, 84.2 FT%); Sidney Moncrief, G-F, Sr., Arkansas (22 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.5 spg, 56 FG%, 85.5 FT%).
National Player of the Year--Bird (AP/UPI/NABC/USBWA/Naismith/Wooden).
National Coaches of the Year--Indiana State's Bill Hodges (33-1/AP, UPI); DePaul's Ray Meyer (26-6/NABC), and North Carolina's Dean Smith (23-6/USBWA).
A ballyhooed matchup between Indiana State's Larry Bird and Michigan State's Magic Johnson in the NCAA playoff final aroused fans and generated the largest basketball game rating (24.1) and share (38) in television history. A share is the percentage of televisions in use at the time.
Bird was the favorite to lead the nation in scoring until he was limited to four points in a mid-February game against Bradley while Idaho State's Lawrence Butler grabbed the lead with a total of 80 points in two contests. Bird, dubbed the "Hick from French Lick," wasn't able to regain the lead despite pouring in a school-record 49 points against Wichita State in his last regular-season home game. Four games earlier, he was limited to a career-low four points at Bradley. Bird was instrumental in helping Indiana State become the first Missouri Valley team in 31 years to go unbeaten in conference competition.
Denver's Matt Teahan scored the most points in a single game with 61 against Nebraska Wesleyan. Among the other players who set school Division I single-game scoring records were James Madison's Steve Stiepler (51 points vs. Robert Morris), Baylor's Vinnie Johnson (50 vs. TCU), Northern Illinois' Paul Dawkins (47 at Western Michigan in overtime), Maryland's Ernest Graham (44 vs. North Carolina State) and Southern Mississippi's Jerome Arnold (41 vs. Missouri-Kansas City). . . . NIU's Dawkins (26.7 ppg), North Texas State's Jon Manning (25.9), JMU's Stielper (25.7), Denver's Teahan (25.3) and Baylor's Johnson (25.2) set school records for highest scoring average in a single season.
Indiana State (33-1/coached by Bill Hodges), Alcorn State (28-1/Davey Whitney) and The Citadel (20-7/Les Robinson) had their winningest seasons in school Division I history. . . . Hodges won his first 33 games, the most ever for any Division I coach at the start of his career before suffering a defeat. . . . The Citadel compiled an anemic 8-19 record the previous season. . . . DePaul began a stretch where the Blue Demons defeated Marquette 18 times in 22 games extending to 1992. Meanwhile, Wisconsin ended a 15-game losing streak in its series with Marquette by whipping the Warriors, 65-52.
A point-shaving scandal at Boston College led to a 10-year prison sentence for Eagles player Rick Kuhn. Notorious organized crime figure Henry Hill and New York gambler Richard "The Fixer" Perry masterminded a scheme to fix nine Boston College games in concert with Kuhn and teammates Ernie Cobb and Jim Sweeney. Kuhn, the only player convicted, served 2 1/2 years in prison for conspiracy to commit sports bribery and interstate gambling.
North Texas State's Jon Manning tossed in 41 points against Baylor to become the only player to score 40 or more in a single game for two different schools against Division I opponents. Manning scored 43 points in January, 1975 as a freshman for Oklahoma City against Tulsa. . . . UCLA, coached by Gary Cunningham, set an NCAA record with its 13th consecutive regular-season conference championship (Pacific-8/Pacific-10).
Oklahoma finished in the Top 20 of a final wire-service poll for the first time since the AP started its rankings in 1948-49. LSU placed in a final Top 20 for the first time since 1954. . . . The Big Eight Conference sponsored its 33rd and final holiday tournament. The 1946 and 1947 tourneys were conducted prior to Christmas on the second weekend in December. The remainder of the events were held after Christmas. Pairings were based on the previous year's league standings until 1964, but beginning in 1965 the first-round matchups were based on a set rotation. Missouri and Kansas combined to win the last nine Big Eight Holiday Tournament titles.
The Sun Belt became the first conference to sign a long-term contract with the fledgling ESPN cable network. The Sun Belt is the only league to have its championship televised on ESPN every year since the network's inception. . . . South Alabama, coached by Cliff Ellis, went undefeated in Sun Belt competition after compiling a 3-7 league mark the previous year. USA is the only Sun Belt team to go undefeated in conference play since the league's inception in 1977. . . . Joe Williams, in his first season as coach for Florida State, won eight contests by fewer than six points in an 11-game span down the stretch. The next year, a nine-game FSU winning streak in mid-season included seven victories by fewer than five points.
Brown lost 38 consecutive games to intracity rival Providence until defeating the Friars, 69-60. Later, Providence gave coach Dave Gavitt a royal send-off in his final homecourt appearance, defeating Rhode Island, 84-77, after losing to the Rams the previous month by 44 points. The next year, Gavitt became commissioner of the wildly successful Big East Conference. . . . Penn, in one of the most remarkable achievements by a school in any decade, had three different coaches guide the Quakers to a Top 20 finish at least twice apiece in the 1970s--Dick Harter, Chuck Daly and Bob Weinhauer. . . . Massachusetts' streak of 11 consecutive winning seasons ended when the Minutemen compiled a 5-22 record. It was their first of 11 straight losing seasons. UMass' average annual record in that famine was 8-19. . . . West Virginia finished in a tie for second place in the Eastern 8 standings after finishing last the previous year. . . . Temple, coached by Don Casey, made its first Top 20 appearance in a final wire-service poll since 1958. . . . The Ivy League permitted freshman eligibility six years after the rest of the nation embraced the rule. . . . La Salle junior guard Kurt Kanaskie finished runner-up in the nation in free-throw percentage (91.7 percent). Kanaskie, an All-ECC second-team selection the next season, went on to become coach for Drake. . . . Rutgers participated in national postseason competition for the sixth time in as many years with Tom Young at their helm. . . . Iona (23-6), coached by Jim Valvano, notched four two-point victories in one five-game stretch. It was the first of Valvano's nine 20-win campaigns over an 11-season span. . . . Jim Calhoun lost to Assumption (Mass.) for the fourth time in his first seven seasons as Northeastern's coach. . . . Duquesne (13-13) had half of its games decided by fewer than five points in the initial coaching campaign for Mike Rice Sr., who won five one-point contests.
Maryland outlasted N.C. State, 124-110, in the highest-scoring game in ACC history. . . . North Carolina blew a 17-point lead midway through the second half at N.C. State, but Dudley Bradley's steal and dunk in the waning seconds gave the Tar Heels a 70-69 victory. . . . A Carolina player (Al Wood) led the ACC in field-goal percentage for the ninth time in 13 years. . . . Duke was ranked No. 1 in the nation when it closed out the calendar year with defeats on back-to-back days against Ohio State and St. John's in the ECAC Holiday Festival. . . . Duke's Kenny Dennard set an ACC single-game record with 11 steals against Maryland.
UNLV led the nation in scoring for the third time in four seasons. . . . Arizona's Russell Brown established a Pacific-10 Conference record with 19 assists against Grand Canyon. . . . Arizona edged UCLA, 70-69, for the Wildcats' lone victory in a 21-game stretch of their series from 1951 through 1984. . . . UCLA senior guard Brad Holland, an All-Pac-10 first-team selection, went on to become coach for two other Western universities (Cal State Fullerton and San Diego). . . . Idaho guard Don Newman, who led the Big Sky in steals with 2.5 per game, eventually coached Sacramento State and Arizona State. . . . Colorado State (11-16), coached by Jim Williams, compiled a 5-9 record in games decided by fewer than six points. The Rams were 29-52 in that category under Williams for the entire decade.
Illinois' Derek Holcomb amassed a school-record 11 blocked shots in a 64-57 victory over South Carolina. Illinois had a 15-0 record after edging Michigan State, 57-55, on Eddie Johnson's shot at the buzzer. But the Illini lost 11 of their last 15 games to finish in seventh place in the Big Ten. It was the sixth of seven consecutive second-division finishes for Illinois. One of the Illini's standouts was Mark Smith, who died in June 2001 at the age of 41 after years of substance abuse. . . . Iowa, coached by Lute Olson, shared the Big Ten title after finishing in eighth place the previous season. . . . Minnesota, coached by Jim Dutcher, wound up in a tie for eighth place after finishing runner-up the previous year. . . . Todd Lickliter, one of Butler's top free-throw shooters, went on to coach his alma mater.
Alcorn State, entering the NIT with an undefeated record, erased a 16-point deficit in an 80-78 victory at Mississippi State in a key intrastate matchup. . . . LSU, coached by Dale Brown, finished among the Top 10 in a final wire service poll for the first of three straight seasons. . . . Mississippi posted its lone victory over Memphis State in a 21-game stretch of their series from 1952 through 1986. . . . Hugh Durham compiled an 8-3 record in games decided by fewer than six points in his first season as coach for Georgia. He had at least 10 contests in this category each of his first 11 years with the Bulldogs. . . . Davidson's John Gerdy extended his streak of consecutive 20-point games to 17.
Houston didn't have an All-SWC first- or second-team selection for the only time in its first 19 years as a member of the league from 1975-76 through 1993-94. The Cougars blew a 23-point lead in a 62-61 setback to visiting Arkansas. . . . Arkansas senior swingman Sidney Moncrief, a three-time All-SWC first-team selection, became coach at Arkansas-Little Rock 20 years later for only one season. . . . Northeast Louisiana, sparked by Calvin Natt, set a school record with 17 consecutive victories. Five of the Indians' six defeats were by a total of only nine points. Natt finished his career with 26 games of at least 30 points. . . . Oklahoma City's Ernie Hill set a Trans America Athletic Conference single-season record by averaging 26.6 points per game. . . . Colorado, coached by Bill Blair, compiled a 14-13 mark for its first winning record in eight campaigns and Brigham Young, coached by Frank Arnold, posted a 20-8 record to snap a streak of five consecutive losing seasons. . . . Guard Jim Krivacs became Texas' first All-American in 32 years. . . . Junior center David Lawrence was named Southland Conference player of the year although McNeese State finished with a 3-7 league record.
Washington went 11-16 for its only losing mark in 14 seasons under coach Marv Harshman, but the Huskies defeated UCLA when the Bruins were ranked No. 1 in the nation. . . . North Carolina State won the first Great Alaska Shootout, which subsequently blossomed into one of the nation's premier in-season tournaments. . . . Paul Lambert, lured by Auburn from Southern Illinois, died in a tragic motel fire. Auburn filled the coaching vacancy by hiring Sonny Smith from East Tennessee State. Another coach who passed away in the offseason was Stu Aberdeen after his second season at Marshall.
1979 NCAA Tournament
Summary: Indiana State, undefeated entering the tourney (29-0), lost the national final against Michigan State (75-64) when the Sycamores' Larry Bird, who hit 53.2 percent of his field-goal attempts on the season, made just one-third of his shots from the floor (7 of 21) as a sore thumb limited his shooting effectiveness. Magic Johnson scored a game-high 24 points for the Spartans, who had a 16-point second-half cushion trimmed to six before recovering. Michigan State dominated the NCAA Tournament, handing every one of its five playoff opponents, a quintet averaging 25.6 victories, their worst defeat of the year--Lamar (31-point margin), LSU (16), Notre Dame (12), Penn (34) and Indiana State (11). Consequently, most observers don't remember the glaring defect of the Spartans earlier in the season when they were defeated by four Big Ten Conference second-division teams. Michigan State required two overtime victories at home to avoid compiling six Big Ten losses in a seven-game span. Four of the Spartans' five Big Ten defeats were to second-division teams, including an 18-point setback against conference cellar dweller Northwestern, which has more than 25 consecutive losing league records and finished in the Big Ten basement 12 times in one 16-year stretch. Excluding Northwestern, Michigan State's five other defeats were by a total of just eight points.
Outcome for Defending Champion: Kentucky (19-12) incurred its first second-division finish in the SEC (6th place) since the league's inaugural season in 1932-33 before losing at home in the first round of the NIT to Clemson before an NIT single-game attendance record of 23,522 spectators. The Wildcats bowed three times to Tennessee by an average of 11.3 points.
Star Gazing: MSU's Johnson became the only individual to be named Final Four Most Outstanding Player and NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (Los Angeles Lakers '80) in back-to-back seasons. Magic had two of his seven triple doubles during the campaign in the playoffs, including a 29-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist performance in the national semifinals against Penn. . . . Junior college transfer Ben Howland, who averaged 13 points per game in two playoff outings for Weber State, went on to coach Northern Arizona to the 1998 NCAA Tournament before accepting a similar position at Pittsburgh.
Biggest Upset: East Regional No. 1 seed North Carolina lost its opener (72-71 against Penn) in the Tar Heels' home state (Raleigh, N.C.) when forward Tony Price poured in a game-high 25 points for the Quakers. The victory helped them finish the decade with more NCAA Tournament victories (10) than the Tar Heels (nine).
One and Only: Indiana State is the only school to reach the Final Four in its one and only NCAA Tournament appearance in the 20th Century. The Sycamores won the Midwest Regional final against Arkansas, 73-71, when Bob Heaton shifted the ball from his normal right hand to his left for a short shot that bounced twice on the rim before going down. In the regular season, Heaton kept their unbeaten streak intact by hitting a 55-footer that banked off the glass, knotting the score at New Mexico State and forcing an overtime. . . . Bill Hodges of Indiana State was the only individual to win more than 30 games in earning a trip to the national semifinals in his first season as a head coach until North Carolina's Bill Guthridge achieved the feat in 1997-98. Hodges was named interim coach when Bob King was forced to step down four days before practice started after suffering a stroke in the preseason. The Sycamores, who moved up to Division I status in 1972, didn't compile a winning season since Hodges guided them to a 16-11 mark the year after Bird departed until duplicating the record in 1997-98. . . . California is the only state to have at least five schools in a tourney before the field expanded to at least 48 teams (Pacific, Pepperdine, San Francisco, Southern California and UCLA).
Celebrity Status: Marquette's Larry Hatchett, who scored four points in three minutes of a 73-48 first-round victory over Pacific, went on to become a national leader in the field of urinary medicine.
Numbers Game: Penn's Price is the highest scorer in a tourney for a Final Four team to fail to be named All-Tournament. . . . DePaul forward Mark Aguirre became the first freshman to be named to an NCAA All-Tournament team. . . . Michigan State forward Greg Kelser personally outscored (34 to 18) and outrebounded (13 to 11) Notre Dame's vaunted frontcourt of Kelly Tripucka, Orlando Woolridge and Bill Laimbeer in the Spartans' 80-68 Mideast Regional final victory. . . . MSU guard Terry Donnelly doubled his season scoring average in the second half of the national final with 13 points against Indiana State. . . . It was free-throw follies for Indiana State center Alex Gilbert, who missed all five of his foul shots at the Final Four to finish the season with an abysmal 25.3 percent "accuracy" from the charity stripe (20 of 79). . . . David Greenwood's tourney-high 37 points for UCLA weren't enough to prevent a 95-91 setback against DePaul in the West Regional final. . . . St. John's, a No. 10 seed, won three games by an average of three points before losing to Penn by two (64-62) in the East Regional final. Lou Carnesecca became the only coach in the 20th Century to win multiple playoff games in different stints with the same school. . . . Oklahoma, coached by Dave Bliss, made its first NCAA playoff appearance since 1947. . . . Iona, coached by effervescent Jim Valvano, participated for the initial time in the NCAA playoffs. . . . Tennessee notched its first NCAA Tournament victory (97-81 over Eastern Kentucky). In 22 years from 1964 through 1985, the Volunteers finished no worse than fourth in the SEC 18 times and won at least 20 games in 13 of those seasons. . . . Lamar's Clarence Kea collected a game-high 33 points and tourney-high 19 rebounds in a 95-87 triumph over Detroit in the opening round of the Mideast Regional. . . . Southern California, coached by Bob Boyd, made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years. The Trojans posted their only NCAA playoff win in a 30-year span from 1962 through 1991. . . . Toledo, coached by Bob Nichols, overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to nip Iowa, 74-72, for the Rockets' only NCAA playoff victory in the 20th Century. Stan Joplin, who supplied the decisive basket, would go on to coach his alma mater.
What Might Have Been: LSU won the SEC regular-season title despite the absence of standout forward Rudy Macklin, who missed the majority of the year because of a broken leg. The Tigers were 22-3 entering their regular-season finale but playoff aspirations were defused when leading scorer DeWayne Scales was suspended for repeated conversations with an agent. LSU, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 25 years, scored just 19 first-half points in an 87-71 setback against Michigan State in the Mideast Regional semifinals. . . . San Francisco (22-7), not UCLA, might have advanced to the West Regional final against DePaul if Winford Boynes and James Hardy had remained with the Dons instead of turning pro early. . . . Metro Conference runner-up Florida State (19-10) probably would have earned a spot in the NCAA playoff field if guard Mickey Dillard didn't miss the majority of the season because of a broken leg. Dillard went on to average 19.5 points per game the next two years. . . . Southern California (20-9) might have advanced farther in the West Regional if leading scorer and rebounder Cliff Robinson wasn't sidelined because of an injury. . . . Georgetown (24-5) might have reached at least a regional final for the first time under coach John Thompson Jr. if defensive presence Tom Scates didn't incur a season-ending knee injury if an ECAC South playoff game.
Putting Things in Perspective: Three players who finished their Duke careers with more than 2,000 points (Gene Banks, Mike Gminski and Jim Spanarkel) each compiled lower scoring averages than they manufactured the previous year, when Duke was national runner-up. In 1978, Banks, Gminski and Spanarkel became the only trio to each score at least 20 points in both Final Four games (total of 71 points in 90-86 victory over Notre Dame in the semifinals and 63 in 94-88 setback against Kentucky in the championship game). Duke is the only national runner-up to score more than 85 points in an NCAA final. Banks, Gminski and Spanarkel all scored at least 16 points when they combined to shoot 53.5 percent from the floor against St. John's, but none of their teammates managed more than seven points as the Blue Devils blew a five-point halftime lead.
NCAA Champion Defeats: At North Carolina (1-point margin), at Illinois (2), at Purdue (2), at Michigan (1), at Northwestern (18), and at Wisconsin (2). . . . Purdue's Joe Barry Carroll and Cal State Fullerton's Calvin Roberts shared the highest single-game output against Michigan State during the season with 27 points apiece.
Scoring Leader: Tony Price, Pennsylvania (142 points, 23.7 ppg).
Highest Scoring Average: Bill Cartwright, San Francisco (58 points, 29 ppg).
Rebounding Leader: Larry Bird, Indiana State (67 rebounds, 13.4 rpg).
Highest Rebounding Average: Lionel Green, LSU (31 rebounds, 15.5 rpg).
Mark Aguirre, F, Fr., DePaul (53 points, 19 rebounds in final two games)
Larry Bird, F-C, Sr., Indiana State (54 points, 29 rebounds, 11 assists, six steals)
Gary Garland, G, Sr., DePaul (41 points, 16 rebounds, 13 assists, seven steals)
*Magic Johnson, G, Soph., Michigan State (53 points, 17 rebounds, 15 assists)
Greg Kelser, F, Sr., Michigan State (47 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists, six blocked shots)
*Named Most Outstanding Player.
Championship Team Results
Second Round: Michigan State 95 (Kelser team-high 31 points), Lamar 64 (Kea 11)
Regional Semifinal: Michigan State 87 (Johnson 24), Louisiana State 71 (Hultberg 25)
Regional Final: Michigan State 80 (Kelser 34), Notre Dame 68 (Hanzlik/Jackson 19)
National Semifinal: Michigan State 101 (Johnson 29), Penn 67 (Price 18)
Championship Game: Michigan State 75 (Johnson 24), Indiana State 64 (Bird 19)