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At a Glance
NCAA Champion--Indiana (26-9; coached by Bob Knight/10th of 29 seasons with Hoosiers; won Big Ten title by one game over Iowa with a 14-4 record).
NIT Champion--Tulsa (26-7; coached by Nolan Richardson/first of five seasons with Golden Hurricane; tied for second place in Missouri Valley with an 11-5 record, which was one game behind Wichita State).
New Conference--MEAC (moved up from Division II).
New Rule--No more than 50 percent of the NCAA Tournament berths shall be filled by automatic qualifiers.
NCAA Probation--UC Santa Barbara, New Mexico, West Texas State.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans--Mark Aguirre, F, Jr., DePaul (23 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 58.2 FG%); Danny Ainge, G, Sr., Brigham Young (24.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4 apg, 51.8 FG%, 82.4 FT%); Steve Johnson, C, Sr., Oregon State (21 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 74.6 FG%); Ralph Sampson, C, Soph., Virginia (17.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.1 bpg, 55.7 FG%); Isiah Thomas, G, Soph., Indiana (16 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.8 apg, 2.2 spg, 55.4 FG%).
National Players of the Year--Ainge (NABC/Wooden) and Sampson (AP/UPI/USBWA/Naismith).
National Coaches of the Year--Kansas State's Jack Hartman (24-9/shared NABC) and Oregon State's Ralph Miller (26-2/AP, UPI, shared NABC, USBWA).
Perhaps the national player of the year to struggle the most in a single NCAA Tournament was Virginia sophomore center Ralph Sampson, who had three mediocre playoff games of less than 12 points, including an 11-point outing when the Cavaliers were defeated by North Carolina in the national semifinals. Virginia captured its only undisputed ACC regular-season title with a 13-1 league record for the Cavaliers' first conference championship since the Southern Conference's inaugural campaign in 1922. The Cavs sprinted to a 23-0 mark before Notre Dame's Orlando Woolridge ended the streak with a last-second shot, 57-56.
Oregon State's Steve Johnson (see accompanying box), who didn't play basketball until his senior year in high school, set an NCAA single-season record by hitting 74.6 percent of his field-goal attempts (235 of 315). He finished his career at 67.8 percent, an NCAA mark with a minimum of 600 baskets. Johnson, the only player to hit more than 70 percent of his field-goal attempts in two different seasons, led the Pacific-10 in field-goal accuracy all four of his years with the Beavers as they had a player pace the conference in that category six consecutive seasons. . . . Oregon State won its first 26 games before the Beavers were blasted in their regular-season finale by visiting Arizona State, 87-67. Guard Byron Scott scored a game-high 25 points for the Sun Devils. Earlier, ASU outlasted UCLA, 78-74, in triple overtime in a game that had nine of its 10 starters go on to NBA careers.
Danny Ainge became the first Brigham Young player since 1953 to earn a spot on an NCAA consensus first- or second-team All-American squad. He eventually coached the NBA's Phoenix Suns. . . . UC Irvine's Kevin Magee, after an unspectacular high school career in Magnolia, Miss., and brief stints with three colleges (Southeastern Louisiana/Houston/College of the Ozarks), became the first player ever to finish among the top four nationally in scoring, rebounding and field-goal shooting. He tagged along with coach Bill Mulligan from Saddleback Community College (Calif.). . . . Colgate's Mike Ferrara (28.6 ppg), UCI's Magee (27.5) and Portland's Jose Slaughter (21.2) set school records for highest scoring average in a single season.
Tulsa, which tied for last place in the Missouri Valley Conference the previous year, became the only school to win more than 25 games the season after a single-digit victory total. The Golden Hurricanes improved to 26-7 from 8-19 after first-year coach Nolan Richardson brought four of his top players from NJCAA champion Western Texas. Tulsa became the first team to capture an NIT title after posting a losing record the previous year. The Golden Hurricanes, after losing their previous eight outings with intracity rival Oral Roberts, began a 13-game winning streak against ORU in their series. They also started a 16-game winning streak against SIU in their series.
Rolando Blackman became the only Kansas State player from the late 1940s through the remainder of the 20th Century to be the Wildcats' undisputed scoring leader three straight years. . . . Oklahoma State, coached by Paul Hansen, compiled an 18-9 record to end a streak of 10 consecutive losing seasons. The Cowboys posted their first non-losing Big Eight Conference mark (8-6) in 16 years. . . . Nebraska coach Joe Cipriano died after a year-long battle with cancer three days before the Cornhuskers' season opener. He won more than 65% of his games decided by fewer than five points in 17 campaigns at their helm (67-36 mark in those close contests). . . . TCU's Warren Bridges, Darrell Browder and Deckery Johnson each logged an amazing 60 minutes of action during the Horned Frogs' four-overtime, 78-77 victory over Houston. . . . Rice lost 20 consecutive games to Texas in their series until the Owls defeated the Longhorns in overtime, 46-40. . . . Lamar's Alvin Brooks, who distributed a Southland Conference-record 21 assists in a game against Texas-Pan American en route to leading the league in the category with 8.3 per game, went on to coach Houston for five seasons from 1993-94 through 1997-98. Brooks led Lamar in assists and steals for the second straight year. The Cardinals won all eight games decided by fewer than five points in Pat Foster's first season as their coach. . . . Louisiana Tech's Dave Simmons, a three-time All-SLC selection, went on to coach McNeese State in the same league. . . . Texas-Arlington's Albert Culton grabbed a school-record 24 rebounds in a game against Northeastern. . . . Houston Baptist (18-10), coached by Gene Iba, had more than half of its games decided by fewer than six points. The TAAC regular-season champion was 10-5 in close contests.
South Carolina guard Zam Fredrick, entering his senior season with a career scoring average of just 8.1 points per game, ranked in 20th place at midseason (22.5 ppg) before averaging 36 ppg his last 13 games to finish with a nation-leading mark of 28.9. Fredrick averaged a meager 1.9 ppg as a freshman. South Carolina is the only school in NCAA history to have the nation's leading scorer in basketball and leading rusher in football (Heisman Trophy-winner George Rogers with 1,891 yards in 1980) in the same school year. . . . Ferrara, runner-up to Fredrick in scoring average, had a national-high 50 points against Siena. Ferrara, who averaged only 2.1 points per game as a freshman at Niagara before transferring, was named North Atlantic Conference player of the year despite Colgate's 11-18 record. . . . Senior forward Larry Lawrence was named Ivy League player of the year although Dartmouth finished in last place (3-11 record in Ivy and 10-16 overall). . . . Syracuse has not finished outside the top four in annual attendance since the Carrier Dome opened. . . . Bob Brown, Army's leading scorer for the second straight season under coach Mike Krzyzewski, went on to become a Maj. Gen. who assumed command of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning (Ga.) in early November 2010.
Michigan's Mike McGee became the only player to score more than 1,500 points in Big Ten Conference competition. . . . Indiana's Ted Kitchel canned all 18 of his free-throw attempts in a 78-61 victory over Illinois, setting a school and Big Ten standard that still stands. . . . Cleveland State's Frank Edwards (49 points at Xavier) and American's Boo Bowers (45 at Harvard) set school Division I single-game scoring records. . . . Loyola of Chicago's Wayne Sappleton established a Midwestern Collegiate Conference single-season standard by averaging 15.2 rebounds per game. The league was called the Midwestern City at the time. Xavier won the undisputed conference title despite compiling a 12-16 overall record. . . . St. Louis senior guard David Burns shared the Metro Conference player of the year honor although SLU finished in last place with a 3-9 league mark. . . . Notre Dame, coached by Digger Phelps, wound up in the Top 10 of a final AP poll for the sixth consecutive campaign. . . . Dayton (18-11), coached by Don Donoher, had more than half of its games decided by fewer than six points (9-6 mark in those close contests). It was the first of back-to-back years where the Flyers won nine outings in that category. . . . Coach Bob Nichols, in the midst of posting winning overall records in each of his first 20 seasons at Toledo's helm, guided the Rockets to their 10th straight top three finish in the Mid-American Conference.
Louisiana State (31-5/coached by Dale Brown), American (24-6/Gary Williams) and San Jose State (21-9/Bill Berry) secured their winningest seasons in school Division I history. LSU became the first SEC member other than Kentucky in 28 years to reach the Final Four. . . . Florida boasted two of the highest-scoring freshmen in the country--Ronnie Williams (2nd among yearlings with 19.4 ppg) and Vernon Delancy (4th with 17.8 ppg).
West Virginia's 23-10 record snapped a streak of losing more than 10 games in 12 consecutive seasons. . . . The three-point goal was an experimental rule in the Southern Conference. Western Carolina's Ronnie Carr made the first three-pointer in history on November 29, 1980, in Reid Gymnasium against Middle Tennessee State. . . . Davidson, coached by Eddie Biedenbach, shared the Southern Conference regular-season championship after finishing in the league cellar the previous year. . . . Marshall guard Greg White, a two-time All-Southern Conference second-team selection who twice led the league in assists, eventually became head coach of his alma mater. . . . Old Dominion, which lost three times to Virginia Commonwealth by an average margin of 12 points, won at DePaul, 63-62, when the Blue Demons were ranked No. 1 in the country. . . . Clem Haskins became the third different Western Kentucky coach in six years to capture an Ohio Valley Conference regular-season crown. He joined Jim Richards ('76) and Gene Keady ('80). . . . Murray State lost 19 consecutive games to intrastate foe Memphis State until defeating the Tigers, 57-52. . . . Louisville junior guard Jerry Eaves, an All-Metro Conference first-team selection, went on to coach North Carolina A&T. . . . Virginia Tech (15-13) failed to win at least 19 games for the only time in coach Charlie Moir's first 10 seasons with the Hokies.
Freshman guard John Stockton averaged a modest 3.1 points per game when Gonzaga compiled a 19-8 record for its only season with fewer than 10 defeats in a 25-year span from 1967-68 through 1991-92. Stockton, however, went on to lead the WCAC in assists in 1983 and 1984 to become the only non-Loyola Marymount player to pace the league in that category in a 12-year stretch from 1980-91. . . . Wyoming swingman Charles Bradley, a three-time All-WAC first-team selection, went on to become Loyola Marymount's coach. . . . UC Irvine tied for third place in the PCAA after finishing in last its first three years as a member of the league. UCI (86.4 ppg) and Fresno State (50.7 ppg) became the only two members from the same league in the 20th Century to lead the nation in team offense and defense in the same campaign since the start of national postseason competition. . . . Santa Clara lost five one-point games en route to compiling a 7-23 mark in the slimmest of margins during coach Carroll Williams' 22-year tenure from 1970-71 through 1991-92.
National field-goal shooting improved for the eighth consecutive season to 48 percent. As a means of comparison, only 10 teams shot better than 48 percent from the floor in 2001-02. . . . Five Mid-American teams tied for first place, the most ever for a Division I conference, with 10-6 league records. . . . Catholic (D.C.) competed in its final season at the major-college level. . . . Colorado transfer Chris Knoche, a member of American's NIT squad, eventually coached his alma mater for seven seasons in the 1990s.
1981 NCAA Tournament
Summary: North Carolina couldn't cope with two players named Thomas in a 63-50 defeat in the NCAA final. Indiana's Isiah Thomas collected 23 points and five assists and teammate Jim Thomas chipped in with eight assists. Jim Thomas, a defensive standout, became the only player who didn't score a total of more than 10 points in two Final Four games (two points in each game) to be named to an All-NCAA Tournament team. Carolina had defeated the Hoosiers, 65-56, just before Christmas.
Star Gazing: Isiah Thomas is the only guard among the eight freshmen and sophomores to lead a national titlist in scoring average. He went to coach Florida International after guiding the Indiana Pacers in the same capacity to the 200? NBA Finals. . . . BYU's Danny Ainge drove through the heart of No. 2 seed Notre Dame's defense ("March through Atlanta") for a layup at the buzzer to give the Cougars a 51-50 victory in the East Regional semifinals.
Outcome for Defending Champion: Louisville (21-9) won the Metro Conference regular-season crown by four games after losing six of its first seven non-league contests. This was the only one of coach Denny Crum's first 16 seasons through 1986-87 that he compiled a losing mark (2-3) in games decided by fewer than six points.
Biggest Upsets: Louisville and 1980 runner-up UCLA succumbed against Arkansas and Brigham Young, respectively. It was the last time both championship final teams appeared in the tourney again the following season and lost their opening-round games. Louisville fell, 74-73, when the Razorbacks' U.S. Reed took an inbounds pass with five seconds remaining, dribbled up the sideline and heaved a mid-court shot that went through at the buzzer. . . . DePaul was the nation's top-ranked team entering the tourney for the second consecutive season when the Blue Demons lost their playoff opener again (49-48 against St. Joseph's in Mideast Regional). It was the "Year of the Upset" as second-ranked Oregon State succumbed to Kansas State, 50-48, and third-ranked Arizona State was clobbered by Kansas, 88-71, in their playoff openers. K-State defeated OSU on Rolando Blackman's 17-foot buzzer beater from the right baseline in the West Regional. Tony Guy poured in 36 points for Kansas against the Sun Devils in the Midwest Regional.
One and Only: DePaul became the only school to be top-ranked entering back-to-back tournaments but lose both opening playoff games. St. Joseph's gained its only lead in the second half when an inexcusably unguarded Hawks player named John Smith sank a layup with three seconds left after DePaul's most accurate foul shooter, Skip Dillard, the guy they called "Money" because when he shot 'em, they were as good as in the bank, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12 seconds remaining. St. Joe's Bryan Warrick grabbed the rebound and weaved through DePaul's defense before passing the ball to Smith. St. Joe's was accustomed to winning close contests under coach Jim Lynam, who won 30 of 42 games decided by fewer than six points in his three years at the Hawks' helm.
DePaul did not score a point or take a shot in the final 6 1/2 minutes. A stunned Aguirre, the national player of the year, didn't even throw the ball inbounds and finished the game with one rebound, one assist, no blocked shots, no steals and the only sub-10 scoring output of his college career (eight points). He must have saved his energy for throwing the game ball into Dayton's Great Miami River after the game.
Smith felt no remorse for Aguirre and venerable DePaul coach Ray Meyer. "Aguirre? Why should I? I know one thing, he didn't light us up, did he? And, he did all the (trash) talking. That made me want to dig in and put it to this guy. Who in the hell does he think he is? He sure wasn't doing anything."
Celebrity Status: Sam Clancy, Pittsburgh's all-time leading rebounder when his basketball career ended, specialized as a pass rusher in an 11-year pro football career in the USFL and NFL. He appeared in two AFC championship games with the Cleveland Browns after playing in two NCAA Tournament games for the Panthers in the West Regional (22 points and game-high 13 rebounds in 70-69 overtime victory against Idaho and 16 points, six rebounds and game-high five steals in 74-57 defeat against national finalist-to-be North Carolina). His son was a star for Southern California's East Regional finalist in 2001. . . . Steve Craig, Ainge's backcourtmate with BYU, eventually married singer Marie Osmond twice with a 30-year gap between ceremonies. . . . Steve Mills, who scored a team-high 16 points in a 60-51 first-round defeat against BYU in the East Regional, went on to become President of Sports Team Operations/Madison Square Garden overseeing the operational and business dealings for the "World's Most Famous Arena." Mills climbed the ladder of the NBA's executive ranks for 16 years, going from account executive to the commissioner's office where he helped develop the idea for the "Dream Team." . . . Ken McAlister, who dished out a team-high five assists for San Francisco in a first-round loss to Kansas State in the West Regional, went on to play five NFL seasons as a linebacker/defensive back. He had two interceptions and four sacks for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1984. . . . Princeton's Steve Mills, who scored a team-high 16 points in a 60-51 first-round defeat against BYU, eventually became the NBA's highest-ranking African-American in the commissioner's office where he helped create the WNBA and develop the idea for the "Dream Team." He became President of Sports Team Operations/Madison Square Garden, overseeing the operational and business dealings for the "World's Most Famous Arena" from 2001 to 2009, before joining Magic Johnson Enterprises.
Numbers Game: The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), a computer ranking system, was used for the first time as an aid in evaluating teams for at-large selections and seeding. . . . The last player to score the most points in a single game of a tournament and play for a Final Four team was Al Wood. He scored a national semifinal game-record 39 points for North Carolina in the Tar Heels' 78-65 victory against Virginia before they lost to Indiana in the championship game. In the West Regional final, Wood grabbed a tourney-high 17 rebounds to carry Carolina to an 82-68 triumph over Kansas State. . . . Indiana's Ray Tolbert retrieved 11 missed shots in the NCAA final but finished the season with the lowest rebounding average for a player leading a national titlist in that category (6.4 rpg) since the NCAA began charting rebound statistics. . . . LSU's Rudy Macklin, after averaging 20.5 points per game in his first six NCAA playoff contests, scored a total of four points in two Final Four games. . . . Mississippi (coached by Bob Weltlich) made its lone NCAA Tournament appearance until 1997, Idaho (Don Monson) participated in the playoffs for the initial time and Illinois (Lou Henson) appeared for the first time in 18 years. . . . Wichita State's Mike Jones hit two long-range baskets in the last 50 seconds to give the Shockers a 66-65 victory over Kansas in the Midwest Regional semifinals in the first game between the schools in 36 years. . . . Kansas State's Jack Hartman became the only coach to reach a regional final at least four times without ever advancing to the Final Four. . . . Kansas registered its first NCAA playoff victory in seven years. . . . Houston participated in the playoffs as SWC Tournament champion after both of the Cougars' non-conference defeats in the regular season came against small schools--at Biscayne (Fla.), 76-74, and Alaska-Anchorage, 79-78. . . . Boston College's Tom Davis, who went on to become Iowa's all-time winningest coach, posted his first NCAA playoff victory in his 10th major-college season. Ditto Virginia's Terry Holland, who was in his 12th campaign.
What Might Have Been: Arizona State, ranked third by AP entering the playoffs with a 24-3 record, had the door open to a possible national title when No. 1 seeds DePaul and Oregon State lost their playoff openers at the buzzer. But the Sun Devils, featuring four upperclassmen who combined for a total of more than 35 seasons in the NBA (guards Fat Lever and Byron Scott, center Alton Lister and forward Sam Williams), became one of the biggest busts in tourney history. The door to the Final Four was also slammed shut on them in their opener by Kansas when they fell behind by 16 points at intermission. Arizona State had defeated Iowa by eight points early in the season before the Hawkeyes twice upended eventual national champion Indiana in Big Ten Conference competition. . . . The outcome in the NCAA final could have been different if the Tar Heels had recruited a little differently in their own backyard. Four All-Americans attended high school in North Carolina before attending out-of-state universities: Georgetown guard Sleepy Floyd, Lamar guard Mike Olliver, Georgia forward Dominique Wilkins and Maryland forward-center Buck Williams. . . . Brigham Young likely would have given Virginia a more difficult time in the East Regional final if eventual All-American forward Devin Durrant wasn't on a Mormon mission in Spain.
Putting Things in Perspective: Iowa (21-7) defeated Indiana twice by a total of 16 points before the Hawkeyes lost their NCAA playoff opener in the second round against Wichita State on the Shockers' homecourt. The Hoosiers got off to a modest 7-5 start, including a defeat on a neutral court against Pan American. . . . Wichita State (26-7) was without starting center Ozell Jones (declared ineligible because of a technicality with his high school transcript) when the Shockers bowed to LSU, 96-85, in the Midwest Regional final at the Louisiana Superdome. . . . LSU (31-5) might have fared better at the Final Four if DeWayne Scales didn't defect early to turn pro.
NCAA Champion Defeats: Kentucky (2-point margin), at Notre Dame (4), at North Carolina (9), neutral court vs. Clemson (1), neutral court vs. Pan American (6), at Michigan (3 in OT), Iowa (3), at Purdue (2), and at Iowa (13). . . . Michigan's Mike McGee posted the highest single-game scoring output against Indiana with 29 points.
Scoring Leader: Al Wood, North Carolina (109 points, 21.8 ppg).
Highest Scoring Average: Mike Olliver, Lamar (54 points, 27 ppg).
Rebounding Leader: Cliff Levingston, Wichita State (53 rebounds, 13.25 rpg).
Jeff Lamp, G, Sr., Virginia (43 points, 15 rebounds in final two games)
*Isiah Thomas, G, Soph., Indiana (37 points, nine assists)
Jim Thomas, G, Soph., Indiana (four points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists)
Landon Turner, F-C, Jr., Indiana (32 points, 14 rebounds)
Al Wood, F, Sr., North Carolina (57 points, 16 rebounds)
*Named Most Outstanding Player.
Championship Team Results
Second Round: Indiana 99 (Tolbert team-high 26 points), Maryland 64 (King 22)
Regional Semifinal: Indiana 87 (I. Thomas 27), UAB 72 (Robinson 17)
Regional Final: Indiana 78 (Tolbert/Turner 14), St. Joseph's 46 (Clark 11)
National Semifinal: Indiana 67 (Turner 20), Louisiana State 49 (Carter 10)
Championship Game: Indiana 63 (I. Thomas 23), North Carolina 50 (Wood 18)