1978–79 Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team

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1978–79 Michigan State Spartans men's basketball
Michigan-State-logo-block-s.svg
NCAA Tournament National champions
Big Ten champions
Far West Classic champions
Conference Big Ten Conference
Ranking
Coaches No. 4
AP No. 3
1978–79 record 26–6 (13–5 Big Ten)
Head coach Jud Heathcote (3rd year)
Assistant coach Bill Berry
Assistant coach Fred Paulsen
Assistant coach Dave Harshman
Captain Earvin Johnson
Captain Greg Kelser
Home arena Jenison Fieldhouse
Seasons
1978–79 Big Ten Conference men's basketball standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   PCT     W   L   PCT
#3 Michigan State 13 5   .722     26 6   .813
#15 Purdue 13 5   .722     27 8   .771
#20 Iowa 13 5   .722     20 8   .714
Ohio State 12 6   .667     19 12   .613
Indiana 10 8   .556     22 12   .647
Michigan 8 10   .444     15 12   .556
Illinois 7 11   .389     19 11   .633
Wisconsin 6 12   .333     12 15   .444
Minnesota 6 12   .333     11 16   .407
Northwestern 2 16   .111     6 21   .222
Rankings from AP Poll)

The 1978–1979 Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team represented Michigan State University in the 1978–79 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Spartans were coached by Jud Heathcote in his third year and played their home games at Jenison Field House in East Lansing, Michigan. They were members of the Big Ten Conference. The Spartans finished the season 26–6, 13–5 in Big Ten play, finishing in a tie for first place in the Big Ten. They received a bid to the NCAA Tournament and defeated Indiana State for the National Championship. This marked the school's first National Championship in basketball.

Previous season[edit]

The Spartans finished the 1977–78 season 25–5, 15–3 in Big Ten play to win the Big Ten championship. They beat Providence in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament and Western Kentucky in the Mideast Regional Semifinal. However, they lost to Kentucky in the Regional Final.

Season Summary[edit]

MSU was led by star sophomore, Ervin "Magic" Johnson (16.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game), senior Greg Kelser (18.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game), and sophomore Jay Vincent (13.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game).[1] The Spartans started the season well, finishing the non-conference season with an 8–1 recorded including a loss to No. 13 ranked North Carolina. They entered conference play as the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

After winning their first two conference games, they lost four of their next six games to fall to a 4–4 record in the Big Ten, trailing first-place Ohio State by four games in the standings. However, Michigan State then won their next 10 games with wins over No. 7 Ohio State, at No. 15 Iowa, at No. 13 Ohio State, and No. 18 Purdue. A loss on the final day of the season to Wisconsin resulted in the Spartans slipping into a tie for the Big Ten championship with Iowa and Purdue. MSU received a bid to the NCAA Tournament because of a better head-to-head performance against Big Ten rivals and a superior overall record (21–6).[2] The Spartans finished the season ranked No. 3 in the country.

Michigan State advanced to the Final Four by defeating Lamar, LSU and No. 1-seeded Notre Dame. In the Final Four, the second Final Four appearance in school history, they faced Penn, blowing them out 101–67 to earn a trip to the Championship. There, the Spartans faced No. 1 ranked and undefeated Indiana State led by senior Larry Bird. In what was the most-watched college basketball game ever, Michigan State defeated Indiana State 75–64 to win the school's first ever basketball National Championship.[3] Earvin "Magic" Johnson was voted Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

After two years in college, in which he averaged 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game, Johnson declared himself eligible for the 1979 NBA draft.[4]

Roster and stats[edit]

1978–79 Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team
No Name Pos Year Height Pts Reb Ast
32 Gregory Kelser F SR 6–7 18.1 8.5 1.5
33 Earvin Johnson G SO 6–8 16.1 7.4 8.2
31 Jay Vincent C SO 6–8 13.7 5.6 1.4
15 Ron Charles F JR 6–7 8.8 4.7 0.4
11 Terry Donnelly G JR 6–2 6.5 1.4 2.1
12 Mike Brkovich F SO 6–4 6.5 1.6 1.0
35 Rob Gonzalez F FR 6–7 1.5 0.8 1.0
25 Gerald Busby F FR 6–4 2.3 0.9 0.2
10 Greg Lloyd G FR 6–1 1.2 0.4 0.3
23 Mike Longaker G FR 6–1 1.3 0.5 0.0
42 Rich Kaye F SO 6–7 0.9 0.2 0.0
21 Don Brkovich F FR 6–6 0.3 0.2 0.0
43 Gerald Gilkie F SO 6–7 1.0 1.0 0.0
24 Jaime Hufffman G SP 6–3 0.3 0.5 0.0

Source[5][6]

Schedule and results[edit]

Date
Time, TV
Rank# Opponent# Result Record Site
City, State
Regular season
Nov 27, 1978*
No. 7 Central Michigan W 71–54  1–0
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Dec. 9, 1978*
No. 4 Cal State Fullerton W 92–89  2–0
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Dec 13, 1978*
No. 3 at Western Michigan W 109–69  3–0
University Arena 
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Dec 16, 1978*
No. 3 at No. 13 North Carolina L 69–70  3–1
Carmichael Auditorium 
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Dec 19, 1978*
No. 3 Cincinnati W 63–52  4–1
Pontiac Silverdome 
Pontiac, Michigan
Dec 28, 1978*
No. 4 vs. Washington State
Far West Classic
W 98–52  5–1
Memorial Coliseum 
Portland, Oregon
Dec 29, 1978*
No. 4 at Oregon State
Far West Classic championship
W 65–57  6–1
Memorial Coliseum 
Portland, Oregon
Dec 30, 1978*
No. 4 vs. Indiana W 74–57  7–1
Memorial Coliseum 
Portland, Oregon
Jan 4, 1979
No. 1 Wisconsin W 84–55  8–1
(1–0)
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Jan 6, 1979
No. 1 Minnesota W 69–62  9–1
(2–0)
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Jan 11, 1979
No. 1 at No. 4 Illinois L 55–57  9–2
(2–1)
Assembly Hall 
Champaign, Illinois
Jan 13, 1979
No. 1 at Purdue L 50–52  9–3
(2–2)
Mackey Arena 
West Lafayette, Indiana
Jan 18, 1979
No. 6 Indiana W 82–58  10–3
(3–2)
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Jan 20, 1979
No. 6 Iowa W 83–72 OT 11–3
(4–2)
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Jan 25, 1979
No. 4 at Michigan
Rivalry
L 48–49  11–4
(4–3)
Crisler Arena 
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Jan 27, 1979
No. 4 at Northwestern L 65–83  11–5
(4–4)
Welsh–Ryan Arena 
Evanston, Illinois
Feb 1, 1979
No. 14 No. 7 Ohio State W 84–79 OT 12–5
(5–4)
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Feb 3, 1979
No. 14 Northwestern W 61–50  13–5
(6–4)
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Feb 4, 1979*
No. 14 Kansas W 85–61  14–5
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Feb 8, 1979
No. 10 at No. 15 Iowa W 60–57  15–5
(7–4)
Iowa Field House 
Iowa City, Iowa
Feb 10, 1979
No. 10 at No. 13 Ohio State W 73–57  16–5
(8–4)
St. John Arena 
Columbus, Ohio
Feb 15, 1979
No. 8 at Indiana W 59–47  17–5
(9–4)
Assembly Hall 
Bloomington, Indiana
Feb 17, 1979
No. 8 Michigan
Rivalry
W 80–57  18–5
(10–4)
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Feb 22, 1979
No. 7 No. 18 Purdue W 73–67  19–5
(11–4)
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Feb 24, 1979
No. 4 Illinois W 76–62  20–5
(12–4)
Jenison Field House 
East Lansing, Michigan
Mar 1, 1979
No. 4 at Minnesota W 76–63  21–5
(13–4)
Williams Arena 
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mar 1, 1979
No. 4 at Wisconsin L 81–83  21–6
(13–5)
Wisconsin Field House 
Madison, Wisconsin
NCAA Tournament
Mar 10, 1979*
(2 ME) No. 3 vs. (10 ME) Lamar
Second Round
W 95–64  22–6
Murphy Center 
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Mar 16, 1979*
(2 ME) No. 3 vs. (3 ME) No. 7 LSU
Regional Semifinal
W 87–71  23–6
Market Square Arena 
Indianapolis, Indiana
Mar 18, 1979*
(2 ME) No. 3 vs. (1 ME) No. 4 Notre Dame
Regional Final
W 80–68  24–6
Market Square Arena 
Indianapolis, Indiana
Mar 22, 1979*
(2 ME) No. 3 vs. (9 E) No. 14 Penn
Final Four
W 101–67  25–6
Special Events Center 
Salt Lake City
Mar 26, 1979*
(2 ME) No. 3 vs. (1 MW) No. 1 Indiana State
National Championship
W 75–64  26–6
Special Events Center 
Salt Lake City
*Non-conference game. #Rankings from AP Poll. (#) Tournament seedings in parentheses. ME=MidEast Region.

Source[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

Team players drafted into the NBA[edit]

Year Round Pick Player NBA Team
1979 1 1 Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers
1979 1 4 Greg Kelser Detroit Pistons
1980 4 74 Ron Charles Chicago Bulls
1981 2 24 Jay Vincent Dallas Mavericks
1981 8 181 Mike Brkovich Milwaukee Bucks

Source[8] [9] [10]

References[edit]