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.

Season headlinesEdit

Season outlookEdit

Pre-season pollsEdit

The top 20 from the AP Poll during the pre-season.[3]

'Associated Press'
Ranking Team
1 Duke (38)
2 UCLA (8)
3 Notre Dame (1)
4 Louisville
5 Kansas (1)
6 Texas
7 Michigan State
8 Michigan
9 Syracuse
10 Indiana
11 Kentucky
12 NC State
13 USC
14 LSU
15 Rutgers
16 North Carolina
17 San Francisco
18 Marquette
19 Alabama
UPI Coaches
Ranking Team
1 Duke
3 Notre Dame
4 Michigan State
5 Louisville
7 Texas
8 Michigan
9 NC State
10 USC
11 Indiana
12 North Carolina
13 Syracuse
14 Kentucky
15 Alabama
16 San Francisco
17 LSU
18 Rutgers
19 Minnesota
20 Marquette

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.

School Former Conference New Conference
Arizona Wildcats Western Athletic Conference Pacific-10 Conference
Arizona State Sun Devils Western Athletic Conference Pacific-10 Conference
Virginia Tech Hokies Division I independent Metro Conference
William & Mary Indians Southern Independent

Regular seasonEdit

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.[4]

Conference Regular
Season Winner[5]
Player of the Year
Venue (City)
Atlantic Coast Conference Duke & North Carolina Mike Gminski, Duke[6] 1979 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament Greensboro Coliseum
(Greensboro, North Carolina)
North Carolina
Big Eight Conference Oklahoma John McCullough, Oklahoma [7] 1979 Big Eight Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Kemper Arena
(Kansas City, Missouri)
(Semifinals and Finals)
Big Sky Conference Weber State Lawrence Butler, Idaho State [8] 1979 Big Sky Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Dee Events Center
(Ogden, Utah)
Weber State
Big Ten Conference Michigan State, Purdue & Iowa None Selected No Tournament
East Coast Conference Temple (East)
Bucknell (West)
Michael Brooks, La Salle 1979 East Coast Conference Men's Basketball Tournament The Palestra
Eastern Athletic Association (Eastern 8) Villanova James Bailey, Rutgers[9] 1979 Eastern 8 Men's Basketball Tournament Civic Arena
(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Eastern College Athletic
Conference (ECAC)
Division I ECAC members
played as independents
during the regular season
Nikos Galis,
Seton Hall;
Corny Thompson,
1979 ECAC Metro Region Tournament Nassau Coliseum
(Uniondale, New York)
1979 ECAC New England Region Tournament Providence Civic Center
(Providence, Rhode Island)
1979 ECAC South-Upstate Region Tournament Cole Field House
(College Park, Maryland)
Ivy League Penn Tony Price, Penn [11] No Tournament
Metro Conference Louisville Pat Cummings, Cincinnati 1979 Metro Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Mid-South Coliseum
(Memphis, Tennessee)
Virginia Tech
Mid-American Conference Toledo Paul Dawkins, Northern Illinois[12] No Tournament
Missouri Valley Conference Indiana State Larry Bird, Indiana State [13] 1979 Missouri Valley Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Hulman Center
(Terre Haute, Indiana)
Indiana State [14]
Ohio Valley Conference Eastern Kentucky James Tillman, Eastern Kentucky [15] 1979 Ohio Valley Conference Men's Basketball Tournament McBrayer Arena
(Richmond, Kentucky)
(Semifinals and Finals)
Eastern Kentucky[16]
Pacific-10 Conference UCLA David Greenwood, UCLA[17] No Tournament
Pacific Coast Athletic Association Pacific Ron Cornelius, Pacific [18] 1979 PCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Anaheim Convention Center
(Anaheim, California)
Southeastern Conference LSU Reggie King, Alabama[19] 1979 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex
(Birmingham, Alabama)
Southern Conference Appalachian State Jonathan Moore, Furman[20] 1979 Southern Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Roanoke Civic Center
(Roanoke, Virginia)
(Semifinals and Finals)
Appalachian State[21]
Southland Conference Lamar David Lawrence, McNeese State[22] No Tournament
Southwest Conference Texas & Arkansas Sidney Moncrief, Arkansas (Consensus) 1979 Southwest Conference Men's Basketball Tournament The Summit
(Houston, Texas)
Southwestern Athletic Conference Alcorn State Larry Smith, Alcorn State [23] No Tournament
Sun Belt Conference South Alabama Rory White, South Alabama[24] 1979 Sun Belt Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Charlotte Coliseum
(Charlotte, North Carolina) (Semifinals and Finals)
Trans America Athletic Conference Northeast Louisiana Calvin Natt, Northeast Louisiana [26] 1979 TAAC Men's Basketball Tournament Ewing Coliseum
(Monroe, Louisiana)
Northeast Louisiana
West Coast Athletic Conference San Francisco Bill Cartwright, San Francisco [27] No Tournament
Western Athletic Conference BYU None Selected No Tournament

Informal championshipsEdit

Conference Regular
Season Winner
Player of the Year
Venue (City)
Philadelphia Big 5 Penn & Temple None selected No Tournament

Statistical leadersEdit

Points Per Game
Rebounds Per Game
Field Goal Percentage
Free Throw Percentage
Player School PPG Player School RPG Player School FG% Player School FT%
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

Post-Season TournamentsEdit

NCAA TournamentEdit

Final FourEdit

National Semifinals National Finals
E9 Penn 67
ME2 Michigan State 101
ME2 Michigan State 75
MW1 Indiana State 64
MW1 Indiana State 76
W2 DePaul 74

Third Place – DePaul 96, Penn 93 (OT)

National Invitation TournamentEdit

Semifinals & FinalsEdit

Semifinals Finals
  Indiana 64
  Ohio State 55
  Indiana 53
  Purdue 52
  Purdue 87
  Alabama 68
  • Third Place – Alabama 96, Ohio State 86


Consensus All-American teamsEdit

Consensus First Team
Player Position Class Team
Larry Bird F Senior Indiana State
Mike Gminski C Junior Duke
David Greenwood F Senior UCLA
Magic Johnson G Sophomore Michigan State
Sidney Moncrief G Senior Arkansas

Consensus Second Team
Player Position Class Team
Bill Cartwright C Senior San Francisco
Calvin Natt C Senior Northeast Louisiana
Mike O'Koren F Junior North Carolina
Jim Paxson G/F Senior Dayton
Jim Spanarkel G Senior Duke
Kelly Tripucka F Sophomore Notre Dame
Sly Williams F Junior Rhode Island

Major player of the year awardsEdit

Major coach of the year awardsEdit

Other major awardsEdit

Coaching changesEdit

A number of teams changed coaches during the season and after it ended.[28]

Team Former
Arkansas-Little Rock Happy Mahfouz Ron Krestenbaum
Austin Peay Ed Thompson Ron Bargatze
Dartmouth Gary Walters Tim Cohane Walters left for Providence.
Detroit David Gaines Willie McCarter
East Carolina Larry Gillman Dave Odom
Eastern Michigan Ray Scott Jim Boyce
Florida A&M Ajac Triplett Josh Giles
Hofstra Roger Gaeckler Joe Harrington
La Salle Paul Westhead Lefty Ervin Westhead left to become an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Louisiana Tech J. D. Barnett Andy Russo
Loyola Marymount Dave Benaderet Ron Jacobs
Marshall Stu Aberdeen Bob Zuffelato Aberdeen died of a heart attack during the offseason, replaced by associate head coach Zuffelato.
Massachusetts Jack Leaman Ray Wilson
Memphis State Wayne Yates Dana Kirk
Middle Tennessee State Jimmy Earle Stan Simpson
New Mexico Norm Ellenberger Charlie Harrison Gary Colson Ellenberger was fired following a recruiting scandal. Charlie Harrison served as interim coach for the 1979–80 season and Colson was hired as permanent coach in the 1980 offseason.
New Mexico State Ken Hayes Weldon Drew
New Orleans Butch van Breda Kolff Don Smith
North Carolina A&T Gene Littles Don Corbett
Northeast Louisiana Lenny Fant Benny Hollis Fant retired, turning the program to top assistant Hollis.
Oklahoma City Paul Hansen Ken Trickey
Oklahoma State Jim Killingsworth Paul Hansen
Oral Roberts Lake Kelly Ken Hayes
Pacific Stan Morrison Dick Fichtner Morrison left for USC
Pepperdine Gary Colson Jim Harrick Colson resigned.
Providence Dave Gavitt Gary Walters Gavitt left to concentrate on launching the new Big East Conference.
Robert Morris Tom Weirich Matt Furjanic
St. Francis (NY) Lucio Rossini Gene Roberti
Saint Mary's Frank LaPorte Bill Oates
Saint Peter's Bob Kelly Bob Dukiet
Samford Fred Crowell Cliff Wettig
San Diego State Tim Vezie David Gaines
San Jose State Ivan Guevara Bill Berry San Jose State tapped Michigan State assistant Berry fresh off the Spartans' national championship.
Southern California Bob Boyd Stan Morrison
Tennessee–Chattanooga Ron Shumate Murray Arnold
Tennessee Tech Cliff Malpass Tom Deaton
TCU Tim Somerville Jim Killingsworth
UCLA Gary Cunningham Larry Brown
Utah State Dutch Belnap Rod Tueller
Vanderbilt Wayne Dobbs Richard Schmidt
Virginia Commonwealth Dana Kirk J. D. Barnett
Western Michigan Dick Schiltz Les Wothke
Xavier Tay Baker Bob Staak Xavier brought in Penn assistant Staak.


  1. ^ "1979 Preseason AP Men's Basketball Poll". AP Poll Archive. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Hartzell, Larry, "The 1978-79 Season," Hardwood History, March 22, 2011 Accessed April 6 , 2021
  3. ^ *ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. Random House. 2009. ISBN 0-345-51392-4.
  4. ^ Varsity Pride: ECAC Men's Basketball Tournaments
  5. ^ "2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Record Book – Conferences Section" (PDF). NCAA. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
  6. ^ 2008–09 ACC Men's Basketball Media Guide – Year by Year section, retrieved 2009-02-14
  7. ^ 2008–09 Big 12 Men's Basketball Media Guide – Awards section, Big 12 Conference, retrieved 2009-02-04
  8. ^ Men's Basketball Award Winners, Big Sky Conference, retrieved 2009-02-14
  9. ^ 2008–09 A-10 men's basketball media guide – Awards section, Atlantic 10 Conference, retrieved 2009-02-01
  10. ^ "UConn Men's Huskies: Men's Basketball Huskies of Honor Announced, December 26, 2006". Archived from the original on February 3, 2010. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
  11. ^ Men's Ivy League Outstanding performers Archived 2008-04-29 at the Wayback Machine, Ivy League, retrieved 2009-02-01
  12. ^ 2008–09 MAC Men's BAsketball Media Guide – Records Section, Mid-American Conference, retrieved 2009-02-14
  13. ^ 2008–09 MVC Men's Basketball Media Guide – Honors Section[permanent dead link], Missouri Valley Conference, retrieved 2009-02-06
  14. ^ 2008–09 MVC men's basketball media guide – Tournament section, Missouri Valley Conference, retrieved 2009-02-14
  15. ^ 2008–09 OVC men's basketball media guide, Ohio Valley Conference, retrieved 2009-02-06
  16. ^ 2008–09 OVC men's basketball media guide, Ohio Valley Conference, retrieved 2009-01-24
  17. ^ 2008–09 Pacific-10 Men's Basketball Media Guide- Honors Section, Pacific-10 Conference, retrieved 2009-02-06
  18. ^ 2008–09 Big West Men's Basketball Media Guide Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine, Big West Conference, retrieved 2009-02-14
  19. ^ 2008–09 SEC Men's Basketball Record Book, Southeastern Conference, retrieved 2009-02-06
  20. ^ 2008–09 SoCon Men's Basketball Media Guide – Honors Section, Southern Conference, retrieved 2009-02-09
  21. ^ 2008–09 SoCon Men's Basketball Media Guide – Postseason Section, Southern Conference, retrieved 2009-02-09
  22. ^ 2008–09 Southland Conference Men’s Basketball Media Guide, Southland Conference, retrieved 2009-02-07
  23. ^ 2006–07 SWAC Men's Basketball Media Guide
  24. ^ 2007–08 Sun Belt Men's Basketball Media Guide, Sun Belt Conference, retrieved 2009-02-07
  25. ^ "Sun Belt Men's Basketball Previous Champions". Sun Belt Conference. May 31, 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
  26. ^ Atlantic Sun men's basketball record book, Atlantic Sun Conference, retrieved 2009-02-07
  27. ^ 2008–09 WCC Men's Basketball Media Guide, West Coast Conference, retrieved 2009-02-07
  28. ^ "NCAA Division I Men's College Basketball 2000 Coaching Changes". CNN/SI. 2000-09-13. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
  • Statistical Leaders and Coaching Changes from 1980 NCAA Basketball 84th Annual Guide, (Copyright 1979, NCAA)