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1978–79 Indiana State Sycamores men's basketball team

The 1978–79 Indiana State Sycamores men's basketball team is considered the greatest in the school's history. The Sycamores were undefeated in the regular season and were led by Larry Bird. He led an undefeated team to the national title game versus a Magic Johnson-led Michigan State Spartans team, and ended the season as National Runner-Up with a record of 33–1. To date, the 1978-79 Sycamores are the only team to advance this far in their first-ever NCAA appearance.

1978–79 Indiana State Sycamores men's basketball
Missouri Valley Conference champions
(Regular season and Tournament)
ConferenceMissouri Valley Conference
Ranking
CoachesNo. 1
APNo. 1
1978–79 record33–1 (16–0 MVC)
Head coachBill Hodges (1st season)
MVPLarry Bird
Home stadiumHulman Center
Seasons
1978–79 Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   PCT     W   L   PCT
No. 1 Indiana State 16 0   1.000     33 1   .971
New Mexico State 11 5   .688     22 10   .688
Drake 8 8   .500     15 12   .556
Southern Illinois 8 8   .500     15 13   .536
Creighton 8 8   .500     14 13   .519
Wichita State 8 8   .500     14 14   .500
Tulsa 7 9   .438     13 14   .481
Bradley 3 13   .188     9 17   .346
West Texas A&M 3 13   .188     8 19   .296
1979 MVC Tournament winner
Rankings from AP Poll

Season summaryEdit

In 1979, the NCAA tournament championship game was the most-watched game in the history of the sport, in no small part because of Indiana State star Larry Bird. Bird wasn’t a one-man show, but the unheralded Sycamores rode him to a 33-0 record heading into the title game. The well-rounded Bird averaged 29 points, 14.8 rebounds, and, most significantly, six assists as he changed the way the game was played.

OffseasonEdit

Head coach Bob King suffered a stroke and was unable to continue as head coach of the Sycamores. Assistant Bill Hodges was elevated to the position of head coach.

Exhibition vs. Soviet National TeamEdit

On November 20, the touring Soviet National team came to Hulman Center to play Indiana State. ISU defeated the Soviets, 83–79, to become one of only four college teams to beat them that season.[1]

Regular seasonEdit

During the 1978–79 season, Indiana State qualified for the NCAA Tournament. ISU finished the regular season 29–0, 16–0 in the Missouri Valley Conference, and earned the top ranking in the country.[1]

The only time that the perfect regular season was in jeopardy was on Feb. 1. The Sycamores were 18–0 against New Mexico State. With three seconds remaining, the Sycamores were down 83–81. New Mexico State was at the free throw line and the shot was missed. The missed shot was rebounded by Brad Miley and passed to Bob Heaton. Heaton launched a 50-foot desperation shot which banked through the net to send the game into overtime.[1]

Bird received several honors at the end of regular season. He won the USBWA College Player of the Year, Naismith[2] and Wooden Awards,[3] given to the year's top male college basketball player.

RosterEdit

The Sycamores were led by Bird, the NCAA Player of the Year, and his 28.6 scoring average. He was followed by Carl Nicks’ 19.3 average. The starting lineup also included Miley, Alex Gilbert and Steve Reed. Heaton and Leroy Staley were key reserves. The remainder of the roster consisted of Tom Crowder, Eric Curry, Rod McNelly, Rich Nemcek, Bob Ritter and Scott Turner.

No. Name Position Ht. Year High School
5 Bob Ritter G 6–3 Jr. Northwest Space Pioneers
10 Scott Turner F 6–6 Fr. North Lawrence Stars
15 Rod McNelly G 6–2 Fr. Speedway Spark Plugs
20 Rich Nemcek G 6–6 Jr. Morton Governors
22 Carl Nicks G 6–1 Jr. Englewood Tech Eagles
23 Steve Reed G 6–3 So. Warsaw Tigers
24 Tom Crowder F 6–5 Sr. North Vermillion Falcons
30 Bob Heaton F 6–5 Jr. Clay City Eels
32 Eric Curry C 6–9 Jr. Marie Curie Condors
33 Larry Bird C 6–9 Sr. Springs Valley Blackhawks
40 Brad Miley F 6–8 Jr. Rushville Lions
42 Alex Gilbert F 6–8 Jr. East St. Louis Flyers
44 Leroy Staley F 6–5 Sr. Tampa Jefferson Dragons

NCAA basketball tournamentEdit

The top seed in the NCAA Midwest Regional was awarded to the Sycamores. The final game of the regional tournament was against Arkansas with a berth in the Final Four on the line. With the game tied at 71, the right-handed Heaton was the hero again with a last second left-handed shot in the lane to win the game.[1] They advanced to the championship game and faced Michigan State University, which was led by sophomore Magic Johnson. In what was the most-watched college basketball game ever,[4] Michigan State defeated Indiana State 75–64, and Johnson was voted Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

  • West
    • Indiana State (#1 seed) 86, Virginia Tech (#8 seed) 69
    • Indiana State 93, Oklahoma (#5 seed) 72
    • Indiana State 73, Arkansas (#2 seed) 71

[5]

[5]

Schedule and resultsEdit

Date
time, TV
Rank# Opponent# Result Record Site
city, state
Regular Season
11/25/1978*
Lawrence College W 99-56  1-0
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
11/27/1978*
at Purdue W 63-53  2-0
Mackey Arena 
West Lafayette, Indiana
12/2/1978*
at Evansville W 74-70  3-0
Roberts Municipal Stadium 
Evansville, Indiana
12/4/1978*
Illinois State W 78-76  4-0
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
12/8/1978*
vs. East Carolina
Hatter Classic
W 102-79  5-0
Edmunds Center 
Deland, Florida
12/9/1978*
vs. Cleveland State
Hatter Classic
W 102-71  6-0
Edmunds Center 
Deland, Florida
12/12/1978*
No. 20 at Ball State W 93-85  7-0
Irving Gymnasium 
Muncie, Indiana
12/16/1978*
No. 20 Butler W 109-71  8-0
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
12/30/1978*
No. 11 Morris Harvey W 99-63  9-0
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
1/3/1979
No. 11 Tulsa W 101-89  10-0 (1-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
1/6/1979
No. 11 West Texas State W 98-77  11-0 (2-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
1/9/1979*
No. 9 North Carolina A&T W 83-64  12-0 (2-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
1/13/1979
No. 9 Bradley W 93-74  13-0 (3-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
1/15/1979
No. 9 New Mexico State W 73-69  14-0 (4-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
1/18/1979
No. 5 at Wichita State W 94-84  15-0 (5-0)
Levitt Arena 
Wichita, Kansas
1/20/1979
No. 5 at Creighton W 90-80  16-0 (6-0)
Omaha Civic Auditorium 
Omaha, Nebraska
1/22/1979
No. 5 Southern Illinois W 88-79  17-0 (7-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
1/27/1979
No. 3 Creighton W 77-69  18-0 (8-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
2/1/1979
No. 2 at New Mexico State W 91-89 OT 19-0 (9-0)
Pan American Center 
Las Cruces, New Mexico
2/3/1979
No. 2 at Tulsa W 66-56  20-0 (10-0)
Tulsa Convention Center 
Tulsa, Oklahoma
2/6/1979
No. 2 Drake W 100-79  21-0 (11-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
2/10/1979
No. 2 at Bradley W 91-72  22-0 (12-0)
Robertson Memorial Field House 
Peoria, Illinois
2/12/1979
No. 2 West Texas State W 100-75  23-0 (13-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
2/15/1979
No. 1 at Southern Illinois W 69-68  24-0 (14-0)
SIU Arena 
Carbondale, Illinois
2/20/1979
No. 1 at Drake W 76-68  25-0 (15-0)
Veterans Memorial Auditorium 
Des Moines, Iowa
2/24/1979
No. 1 Wichita State W 109-84  26-0 (16-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
Missouri Valley Conference Tournament
2/27/1979
No. 1 West Texas State
MVC Tournament Quarterfinal
W 94-84  27-0 (16-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
3/1/1979
No. 1 Southern Illinois
MVC Tournament Semifinal
W 79-72  28-0 (16-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
3/3/1979
No. 1 New Mexico State
MVC Tournament Championship
W 74-69  29-0 (16-0)
Hulman Center 
Terre Haute, Indiana
NCAA Tournament
3/11/1979*
(1) No. 1 vs. (8) Virginia Tech
NCAA Second Round
W 86-69  30-0 (16-0)
Allen Fieldhouse 
Lawrence, Kansas
3/15/1979*
(1) No. 1 vs. (5) No. 16 Oklahoma
NCAA Regional Semifinal
W 93-72  31-0 (16-0)
Riverfront Coliseum 
Cincinnati, Ohio
3/17/1979*
(1) No. 1 vs. (2) No. 5 Arkansas
NCAA Regional Final
W 73-71  32-0 (16-0)
Riverfront Coliseum 
Cincinnati, Ohio
3/24/1979*
(1 MW) No. 1 vs. (2 W) No. 6 DePaul
NCAA Final Four
W 76-74  33-0 (16-0)
Special Events Center 
Salt Lake City, Utah
3/26/1979*
No. 1 vs. (2 ME) No. 3 Michigan State
NCAA National Championship
L 64-75  33-1 (16-0)
Special Events Center 
Salt Lake City, Utah
*Non-conference game. #Rankings from AP Poll. (#) Tournament seedings in parentheses. MW=Midwest.
All times are in Central.

Awards and honorsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2009-04-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-03. Retrieved 2009-04-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ http://woodenaward.cstv.com/ot/award-winners.html
  4. ^ Katz, Andy. "From coast to coast, a magical pair". ESPN. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
  5. ^ a b http://www.databasesports.com/ncaab/tourney.htm?yr=1979