Bobby Ford of Bradley stakes uncontested claim to this rebound against Wichita State, much as Indiana laid its claim to the NCAA championship. The Hoosiers, 7-5 at one point, overtook Iowa to win the Big Ten title in the last week of the season, and then cleaned up in the NCAA tournament, beating their five opponents by a total of 113 points. In the semifinals in Philadelphia, Indiana defeated LSU 67-49 and North Carolina downed Virginia 78-65. Then in the finals, the Hoosiers beat the Tar Heels 63-50, no doubt because of its two Thomases, sophomore guards both. Isiah Thomas scored 23 points in the final game, 19 in the second half, while Jim Thomas came off the bench to make eight assists and shackle North Carolina's best shooter, Al Wood. The victory avenged a loss to the Tar Heels earlier in the season and gave Coach Bobby Knight his second NCAA championship in five years. Knight had already gotten into the spirit of the Final Four by slamdunking a voluble LSU partisan into a New Jersey hotel wastepaper bin.
Danny Ainge of Brigham Young (and later the Toronto Blue Jays and still later the Boston Celtics) made the most memorable play of the year. The Cougars trailed Notre Dame by one with 10 seconds left in their Eastern Regional when Ainge took the inbounds pass, dashed up the right sideline past three defenders, turned left by a fourth at the foul line and laid the ball up over a fifth man and in for a 51-50 victory. Ainge, however, couldn't get BYU past Virginia, shown defending against him at the right. Below, LSU and Alabama battle furiously for a loose ball. On the opposite page, Jerry Eaves of Louisville feeds Derek Smith against Arkansas.
Rudy Macklin of LSU, at the right, is rejected by Lamar's Kenneth Perkins, but the Cardinals couldn't reject the Tigers in the Midwest Regional. Below left, Derek Smith of Louisville fights for the ball with U.S. Reed and Keith Peterson of Arkansas. Below right, Bradley Coach Dick Versace, whose mom wrote The Flying Nun, gets down to earth.
The biggest upset of the NCAA tournament came in the Mideast Regional when little St. Joseph's slew big DePaul 49-48. At the right, Marcellus Williams and John Smith celebrate their victory. Below left, Michael Wilson (23) and Oliver Lee (0) were on top of the world after Marquette beat Notre Dame. Below right, Virginia's resident giant, Ralph Sampson, swats away a shot by Mike Tissaw of Duke.
A rather large child, 7'4" sophomore Sampson, powered Virginia to its first ACC regular-season championship and inspired awe among his opponents with plays like this one against Duke.
Written in the Book of Isaiah: "And a little child shall lead them." Isiah Thomas, 6'1", 20 years old, led the Hoosiers with his deft passing (above against Maryland) and shooting (below against LSU in the NCAA semis).
SHOWING THE (TAR) HEELS
One morning last January a somber Coach Knight was heard to moan, "This is the worst hand of cards I've ever been dealt." Two months later, before a full house at the Spectrum, that same hand took the biggest pot of all. The wild card that Knight held was Isiah Thomas. Early in the season the coach and his star were going one-on-one with each other, but after Knight made Thomas the captain and instructed him to run the floor show, their relationship—as well as the team—began to improve. By the end of the season the Hoosiers were the No. 1 team in the country, and Thomas was the best point guard.
Knight had some more high cards up his sleeve. Senior Center Ray Tolbert began to assert himself, and the other big man, Landon Turner, followed suit. (Turner was later partially paralyzed in an auto accident.) Forward Ted Kitchel and Guard Randy Wittman fired away from the outside when needed and played tough man-to-man defense. After breezing through the Mideast Regional—they beat Maryland by 35, Alabama-Birmingham by 15 and surprising St. Joseph's by 32—the Hoosiers met LSU, winner of the Midwest Regional, in the semis. The Tigers had a three-point lead at intermission, but Indiana scored the first 11 points of the second half and won by 18. Sixth man Jim Thomas (no relation) helped out when Isiah was in foul trouble, while Turner scored 20 points and held LSU's Macklin to zero in the second half.
In the other semifinal, regular-season ACC and East Regional champ Virginia tried to make it three-for-three against North Carolina, winner of the West Regional, and that was too much to ask. With Wood scoring a semifinal-record 39 points and Center Sam Perkins holding Sampson to a standoff, the Tar Heels won by 13. In the final, North Carolina jumped to an eight-point lead midway through the first half, but then Jim Thomas joined Isiah in the lineup, Wittman hit four bombs and Indiana surged to a one-point lead at the half. In the second half, the Hoosier defense found Carolina's Achilles Tar Heel, while Isiah took over on offense. The net was all his to cut down.
It was crying time again for Mark Aguirre and DePaul after St. Joe's won in the final seconds.