1978–79 NCAA Division I men's basketball season
The 1978–79 NCAA Division I men's basketball season began in November 1978, progressed through the regular season and conference tournaments, and concluded with the 1979 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament Championship Game on March 26, 1979, at the Special Events Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Michigan State Spartans won their first NCAA national championship with a 75–64 victory over the Indiana State Sycamores.
|1978–79 NCAA Division I men's basketball season|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Duke Blue Devils|
|Tournament dates||March 9 – 26, 1979|
|National Championship||Special Events Center|
Salt Lake City, Utah
|NCAA Champions||Michigan State Spartans|
|Helms National Champions||Michigan State Spartans|
|Other champions||Indiana Hoosiers (NIT)|
|Player of the Year|
|Larry Bird, Indiana State|
|Player of the Year|
|Larry Bird, Indiana State|
- Indiana State senior forward Larry Bird and Michigan Spartans sophomore point guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson emerged as two highly popular and successful players during the season, and their rivalry — culminating in a meeting in the national championship game — captured national attention of basketball fans and the sports media during the year.
- In the Pacific 10 Conference, UCLA won an NCAA-record 13th consecutive conference title.
- The first Great Alaska Shootout took place. The long-running Shootout would become one of the premier early-season tournaments before it was discontinued after its 2017 edition.
- On February 24, North Carolina trailed Duke 7–0 at halftime. It was the first scoreless half for an NCAA basketball team since 1938.
- At Boston College, players took part in a point-shaving scheme which was revealed in 1980.
- The NCAA Tournament expanded from 32 to 40 teams and used seeding for the first time, and the championship game enjoyed the highest television rating in college basketball history.
- The National Invitation Tournament expanded from 16 to 24 teams.
- The growing fan appreciation and financial success of college basketball during the season prompted planning for the creation of the ESPN network and the original Big East Conference, both of which launched the following season and would push the sport to greater prominence in the years to come.
The top 20 from the AP Poll during the pre-season.
Conference membership changesEdit
The 1978–79 season was most notable for the expansion of the Pacific-8 Conference to 10 members with the addition of the men's athletic programs of Arizona and Arizona State (the conference did not sponsor women's sports until the 1986–87 school year). The conference duly renamed itself the Pacific-10 Conference.
Conference winners and tournamentsEdit
Of 22 Division I basketball conferences, 13 determined their league champion with a single-elimination tournament, while seven leagues sent their regular-season champion to the NCAA Tournament. The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) did not receive an automatic tournament bid until the 1979–80 season, while the Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC) received their automatic bid in 1980–81.
From 1975 to 1982, the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), a loosely organized sports federation of Northeastern colleges and universities, organized Division I ECAC regional tournaments for those of its members that were independents in basketball. Each 1979 tournament winner received an automatic bid to the 1979 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament in the same way that the tournament champions of conventional athletic conferences did.
Player of the Year
|Philadelphia Big 5||Penn & Temple||None selected||No Tournament|
Points Per Game
Rebounds Per Game
Field Goal Percentage
Free Throw Percentage
|Lawrence Butler||Idaho St.||30.1||Monti Davis||Tenn. St.||16.2||Murray Brown||Florida St.||69.1||Darrell Mauldin||Campbell||92.1|
|Larry Bird||Indiana St.||28.6||Bill Cartwright||San Francisco||15.7||Jeff Ruland||Iona||67.1||Kurt Kanaskie||La Salle||91.7|
|Nick Galis||Seton Hall||27.5||Lionel Garrett||Southern||15.5||Steve Johnson||Oregon St.||66.1||Jim Krivacs||Texas||91.0|
|James Tillman||Eastern Kentucky||26.9||Larry Bird||Indiana St.||14.9||Jonathan Green||Tennessee St.||65.6||Tom Orner||Butler||90.9|
|Paul Dawkins||Northern Illinois||26.7||Larry Knight||Loyola-Illinois||14.3||Wiley Peck||Mississippi St.||64.4||Ron Perry||Holy Cross||90.8|
|National Semifinals||National Finals|
Third Place – DePaul 96, Penn 93 (OT)
National Invitation TournamentEdit
Semifinals & FinalsEdit
- Third Place – Alabama 96, Ohio State 86
Consensus All-American teamsEdit
|Larry Bird||F||Senior||Indiana State|
|Magic Johnson||G||Sophomore||Michigan State|
|Bill Cartwright||C||Senior||San Francisco|
|Calvin Natt||C||Senior||Northeast Louisiana|
|Mike O'Koren||F||Junior||North Carolina|
|Kelly Tripucka||F||Sophomore||Notre Dame|
|Sly Williams||F||Junior||Rhode Island|
Major player of the year awardsEdit
- Wooden Award: Larry Bird, Indiana State
- Naismith Award: Larry Bird, Indiana State
- Helms Player of the Year: Larry Bird, Indiana State
- Associated Press Player of the Year: Larry Bird, Indiana State
- UPI Player of the Year: Larry Bird, Indiana State
- NABC Player of the Year: Larry Bird, Indiana State
- Oscar Robertson Trophy (USBWA): Larry Bird, Indiana State
- Adolph Rupp Trophy: Larry Bird, Indiana State
- Sporting News Player of the Year: Larry Bird, Indiana State
Major coach of the year awardsEdit
- Associated Press Coach of the Year: Bill Hodges, Indiana State
- Henry Iba Award (USBWA): Dean Smith, North Carolina
- NABC Coach of the Year: Ray Meyer, DePaul
- UPI Coach of the Year: Bill Hodges, Indiana State
- Sporting News Coach of the Year: Bill Hodges, Indiana State
Other major awardsEdit
A number of teams changed coaches during the season and after it ended.
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- Hartzell, Larry, "The 1978-79 Season," Hardwood History, March 22, 2011 Accessed April 6 , 2021
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- Varsity Pride: ECAC Men's Basketball Tournaments
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- 2008–09 A-10 men's basketball media guide – Awards section, Atlantic 10 Conference, retrieved 2009-02-01
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- 2006–07 SWAC Men's Basketball Media Guide
- 2007–08 Sun Belt Men's Basketball Media Guide, Sun Belt Conference, retrieved 2009-02-07
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- Statistical Leaders and Coaching Changes from 1980 NCAA Basketball 84th Annual Guide, (Copyright 1979, NCAA)