1979 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament

The 1979 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament involved 40 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national champion of men's NCAA Division I college basketball. It began on March 9 and ended with the championship game on March 26 in Salt Lake City. A total of 40 games were played, including a national third-place game. This was the tournament's only edition with forty teams; the previous year's had 32,[1] and it expanded to 48 in 1980.

1979 NCAA Division I
Basketball Tournament
Finals siteSpecial Events Center
Salt Lake City, Utah
ChampionsMichigan State Spartans
(1st title, 1st title game,
2nd Final Four)
Runner-upIndiana State Sycamores
(1st title game,
1st Final Four)
Winning coachJud Heathcote (1st title)
MOPMagic Johnson (Michigan State)
Top scorerTony Price Penn
(142 points)
NCAA Division I Men's Tournaments
«1978 1980»

Michigan State, coached by Jud Heathcote, won the national title with a 75–64 victory in the final game over Indiana State, coached by Bill Hodges.[2] Indiana State came into the game undefeated, but couldn't extend their winning streak. Magic Johnson of Michigan State was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.[3][4] Michigan State's victory over Indiana State was its first over a top-ranked team, and remained its only victory over a number one ranked team until 2007 (Wisconsin).[5]

The final game marked the beginning of the rivalry between future Hall of Famers Johnson and Larry Bird. As of 2016, it remains the highest-rated game in the history of televised college basketball.[6] Both Johnson and Bird would enter the NBA in the fall of 1979, and the rivalry between them and their teams (respectively, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics) was a major factor in the league's renaissance in the 1980s and 1990s. The game also led to the "modern era" of college basketball, as it introduced a nationwide audience to a sport that was once relegated to second-class status in the sports world.

With the loss in the championship game, Indiana State has finished as the national runner-up in the NAIA (1946, 1948), NCAA Division II (1968), and NCAA Division I (1979) tournaments, making them the only school to do so.

This was the first tournament in which all teams were seeded by the Division I Basketball Committee.[1] The top six seeds in each regional received byes to the second round, while seeds 7–10 played in the first round.

It is also notable as the last Final Four played in an on-campus arena, at the University of Utah. (The most recent tournament to be held on a university's premises (i.e. not on the university's main campus, but on a satellite or branch campus) was in 1983, as the University of New Mexico (UNM) hosted that year's tournament in The Pit (then officially known as University Arena), which is located on the UNM South Campus.) It has, however, been played in a team's regular off-campus home arena two times since then: in 1985 at Rupp Arena, Kentucky's home court, and in 1996 at Continental Airlines Arena, then Seton Hall's home court. Given the use of domed stadiums for Final Fours for the foreseeable future, it is likely this will be the last Final Four on a college campus. This tournament was the last until the 2019 tournament to see two finalists playing for the national championship for the first time.

This was the first NCAA tournament where three officials were assigned to all games. Several conferences, including the Big Ten and Southeastern, used three officials for its regular season games prior to the NCAA adopting it universally.


Los Angeles
1979 sites for first and second round games
Salt Lake City
1979 Regionals (blue) and Final Four (red)

First & Second RoundsEdit

Region Site Venue Host
East Raleigh, North Carolina Reynolds Coliseum North Carolina State
Providence, Rhode Island Providence Civic Center Providence
Mideast Bloomington, Indiana Assembly Hall Indiana
Murfreesboro, Tennessee Murphy Center MTSU
Midwest Dallas, Texas Moody Coliseum Southwest Conference
Lawrence, Kansas Allen Fieldhouse Kansas
West Los Angeles, California Pauley Pavilion UCLA
Tucson, Arizona McKale Center Arizona

Regional Sites and Final FourEdit

Region Site Venue Host
East Greensboro, North Carolina Greensboro Memorial Coliseum Atlantic Coast Conference
Mideast Indianapolis, Indiana Market Square Arena Butler/IUPUI
Midwest Cincinnati, Ohio Riverfront Coliseum Cincinnati/Xavier
West Provo, Utah Marriott Center Brigham Young
Final Four Salt Lake City, Utah Special Events Center Utah

Salt Lake City became the eighteenth different site of the Final Four, and the eighth Final Four to be held on a college campus. Due to the current setup of the Final Four, both of these are likely not to be repeated. Two new host cities, Cincinnati, Ohio and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, were included for the first time, hosting at the Riverfront Coliseum (the then-home arena of the Cincinnati Bearcats) and MTSU's Murphy Center, respectively. This year also marked the last time tournament games were held at the University of Kansas's legendary Allen Fieldhouse and at SMU's Moody Coliseum. As more and more tournament games are being held in large cities and NBA-caliber arenas, this was most likely the last time the Tournament will be held in Lawrence.

Tournament NotesEdit

In the East, the Round of 32 was called Black Sunday because of Penn's upset of #1 North Carolina and St. John's upset of #2-seeded Duke, both in Raleigh. Penn went all the way to the Final Four before losing to eventual champion Michigan State. Both teams had to defeat higher-seeded opponents in the Round of 40 to have the chance to beat UNC and Duke. Penn beat three higher-seeded opponents to reach the Final Four, a feat which was later bettered in 1986 by LSU, 2006 by George Mason, and 2011 by Virginia Commonwealth, who each beat four higher-seeded opponents on the way to the Final Four.


Region Seed Team Coach Finished Final Opponent Score
East 1 North Carolina Dean Smith Round of 32 9 Penn L 72–71
East 2 Duke Bill E. Foster Round of 32 10 St. John's L 80–78
East 3 Georgetown John Thompson Round of 32 6 Rutgers L 64–58
East 4 Syracuse Jim Boeheim Sweet Sixteen 9 Penn L 84–76
East 5 Connecticut Dom Perno Round of 32 4 Syracuse L 89–81
East 6 Rutgers Tom Young Sweet Sixteen 10 St. John's L 67–65
East 7 Temple Don Casey Round of 40 10 St. John's L 75–70
East 8 Iona Jim Valvano Round of 40 9 Penn L 73–69
East 9 Penn Bob Weinhauer Fourth Place 2 Michigan State L 101–67
East 10 St. John's Lou Carnesecca Regional Runner-up 9 Penn L 64–62
Mideast 1 Notre Dame Digger Phelps Regional Runner-up 2 Michigan State L 80–68
Mideast 2 Michigan State Jud Heathcote Champion 1 Indiana State W 75–64
Mideast 3 LSU Dale Brown Sweet Sixteen 2 Michigan State L 87–71
Mideast 4 Iowa Lute Olson Round of 32 5 Toledo L 74–72
Mideast 5 Toledo Bob Nichols Sweet Sixteen 1 Notre Dame L 79–71
Mideast 6 Appalachian State Bobby Cremins Round of 32 3 LSU L 71–57
Mideast 7 Detroit Smokey Gaines Round of 40 10 Lamar L 95–87
Mideast 8 Tennessee Don DeVoe Round of 32 1 Notre Dame L 73–67
Mideast 9 Eastern Kentucky Ed Byhre Round of 40 8 Tennessee L 97–81
Mideast 10 Lamar Billy Tubbs Round of 32 2 Michigan State L 95–64
Midwest 1 Indiana State Bill Hodges Runner Up 2 Michigan State L 75–64
Midwest 2 Arkansas Eddie Sutton Regional Runner-up 1 Indiana State L 73–71
Midwest 3 Louisville Denny Crum Sweet Sixteen 2 Arkansas L 73–62
Midwest 4 Texas Abe Lemons Round of 32 5 Oklahoma L 90–76
Midwest 5 Oklahoma Dave Bliss Sweet Sixteen 1 Indiana State L 93–72
Midwest 6 South Alabama Cliff Ellis Round of 32 3 Louisville L 69–66
Midwest 7 Weber State Neil McCarthy Round of 32 2 Arkansas L 74–63
Midwest 8 Virginia Tech Charles Moir Round of 32 1 Indiana State L 86–69
Midwest 9 Jacksonville Tates Locke Round of 40 8 Virginia Tech L 70–53
Midwest 10 New Mexico State Ken Hayes Round of 40 7 Weber State L 81–78
West 1 UCLA Gary Cunningham Regional Runner-up 2 DePaul L 95–91
West 2 DePaul Ray Meyer Third Place 1 Indiana State L 76–74
West 3 Marquette Hank Raymonds Sweet Sixteen 2 DePaul L 62–56
West 4 San Francisco Dan Belluomini Sweet Sixteen 1 UCLA L 99–81
West 5 BYU Frank Arnold Round of 32 4 San Francisco L 86–63
West 6 Pacific Stan Morrison Round of 32 3 Marquette L 73–48
West 7 USC Bob Boyd Round of 32 2 DePaul L 89–78
West 8 Utah Jerry Pimm Round of 40 9 Pepperdine L 92–88
West 9 Pepperdine Gary Colson Round of 32 1 UCLA L 76–71
West 10 Utah State Rod Tueller Round of 40 7 USC L 86–67


* – Denotes overtime period

East regionEdit

  First round Second round Regional Semifinals Regional Finals
7 Temple 70  
10 St. John's 75  
  10 St. John's 80  
    2 Duke 78  
  10 St. John's 67  
  6 Rutgers 65  
  3 Georgetown 58
    6 Rutgers 64  
  10 St. John's 62
  9 Penn 64
8 Iona 69  
9 Penn 73  
  9 Penn 72
    1 North Carolina 71  
  9 Penn 84
  4 Syracuse 76  
  4 Syracuse 89
    5 Connecticut 81  

Mideast regionEdit

  First round Second round Regional Semifinals Regional Finals
7 Detroit 87  
10 Lamar 95  
  10 Lamar 64  
    2 Michigan State 95  
  2 Michigan State 87  
  3 LSU 71  
  3 LSU 71
    6 Appalachian State 57  
  2 Michigan State 80
  1 Notre Dame 68
8 Tennessee 97  
9 Eastern Kentucky 81  
  8 Tennessee 67
    1 Notre Dame 73  
  1 Notre Dame 79
  5 Toledo 71  
  4 Iowa 72
    5 Toledo 74  

Midwest regionEdit

  First round Second round Regional Semifinals Regional Finals
7 Weber State 81  
10 New Mexico State 78  
  7 Weber State 63  
    2 Arkansas 74  
  2 Arkansas 73  
  3 Louisville 62  
  3 Louisville 69
    6 South Alabama 66  
  2 Arkansas 71
  1 Indiana State 73
8 Virginia Tech 70  
9 Jacksonville 53  
  8 Virginia Tech 69
    1 Indiana State 86  
  1 Indiana State 93
  5 Oklahoma 72  
  4 Texas 76
    5 Oklahoma 90  

West regionEdit

  First round Second round Regional Semifinals Regional Finals
7 USC 86  
10 Utah State 67  
  7 USC 78  
    2 DePaul 89  
  2 DePaul 62  
  3 Marquette 56  
  3 Marquette 73
    6 Pacific 48  
  2 DePaul 95
  1 UCLA 91
8 Utah 88*  
9 Pepperdine 92  
  9 Pepperdine 71
    1 UCLA 76  
  1 UCLA 99
  4 San Francisco 81  
  4 San Francisco 86
    5 BYU 63  

Final FourEdit

  National Semifinals     National Championship Game
  E9 Penn 67  
  ME2 Michigan State 101    
      ME2 Michigan State 75
      MW1 Indiana State 64
  MW1 Indiana State 76    
  W2 DePaul 74   National Third Place Game
E9 Penn 93*
  W2 DePaul 96


  • Dick Enberg, Billy Packer, and Al McGuire – Final Four at Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Dick Enberg and Al McGuire – Second Round at Providence, Rhode Island (Georgetown–Rutgers, Syracuse–Connecticut); Second Round at Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Michigan State–Lamar, Notre Dame–Tennessee); Mideast Regional Final at Indianapolis, Indiana; West Regional Final at Provo, Utah
  • Jim Simpson and Billy Packer – Second Round at Tucson, Arizona (San Francisco–Brigham Young, Marquette–Pacific); Second Round at Lawrence, Kansas (Indiana State–Virginia Tech, Arkansas–Weber State); East Regional Final at Greensboro, North Carolina; Midwest Regional Final at Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Jay Randolph and Gary Thompson – Midwest Regional Semifinals at Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Connie Alexander and Bill Strannigan – West Regional Semifinals at Provo, Utah
  • Marv Albert and Bucky Waters – Second Round at Raleigh, North Carolina (North Carolina–Pennsylvania, Duke–St. John's)
  • Merle Harmon and Fred Taylor – Second Round at Bloomington, Indiana (Iowa–Toledo, LSU–Appalachian State)
  • Jim Thacker and Gary Thompson – Second Round at Dallas, Texas (Louisville–South Alabama, Texas–Oklahoma)
  • Jay Randolph and Lynn Shackelford – Second Round at Los Angeles, California (UCLA–Pepperdine, DePaul–USC)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "NCAA hoop event expands". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). Associated Press. August 15, 1978. p. 9.
  2. ^ Keith, Larry (August 2, 1979). "They caged the Bird". Sports Illustrated. p. 16.
  3. ^ "Michigan State grounds Bird – wins title". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. March 27, 1979. p. 17.
  4. ^ "Sparts cast final vote for No. 1". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire service reports. March 27, 1979. p. 1D.
  5. ^ http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/recap?gameId=270510127
  6. ^ Larry Bird; Earvin Johnson; Jackie MacMullan (4 November 2009). When the Game Was Ours. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 13–. ISBN 978-0-547-41681-6. 24.1 Nielsen rating