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1981 College Basketball Season

July 26, 2013

1981 Hoosiers

Indiana came into the 1981 season with a #5 pre-season ranking *photo courtesy of Indystar

Going into the 1981 Season, the two Finalists in 1980 were ranked in the top six.  Louisville started off #3 in the rankings and had everybody except Darrell Griffith returning.  They had Rodney McCray’s brother Scooter returning from a redshirt year and incoming freshmen Lancaster Gordon and Charles Jones.  They would be a factor in the next few seasons but for this season they lost 6 of their first 7 games and was 2-7 before rebounding and winning the Metro, losing just one conference game.  They were the #4 seed in the Midwest Regional but lost in the 2nd round to Arkansas, 74-73 on a half court shot.

UCLA started off #6 and had everyone except Kiki Vandeweghe and James Wilkes returning, but they added Kenny Fields and Ralph Jackson to the fold.  UCLA would finish with less losses than in 1980 and would be a higher seed in the tournament (a #3 seed in the East) but were blown out by Danny Ainge and Brigham Young in the 2nd round, 78-55.  This would set up a BYU matchup with Notre Dame that we’ll get to later.

DePaul started off number 2 but quickly climbed to number 1 for several weeks and were never ranked below #4 as they only suffered a one-point loss to Old Dominion during the regular season.  But that was during the season.  Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings and Co. would lose to St. Joseph’s (#9 in the Mideast Regional) 49-48 to once again go 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament.  Aguirre would then leave for the NBA and be the #1 pick.

Maryland with Albert King and Buck Williams would start the season ranked #4 but struggled in the ACC, finishing 4th with an 8-6 conference mark.  The rebounded in the ACC Tournament, making the Final against North Carolina but losing 61-60.  They were the #6 seed in the Midwest Regional and got killed by Indiana 99-64 in the 2nd round.

The #5 ranked Hoosiers had an early date with #2 ranked Kentucky at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.  Indiana returned future NBAers Ray Tolbert and Randy Wittman (along with should-have-been future NBAer Landon Turner.. we’ll get to that) to go with star point guard Isiah Thomas.  Kentucky had only one member left from the 1978 Championship team, senior Fred Cowan (not a big factor on that team but he did play in the Championship Game).  The Wildcats had a young team led by sophomore Sam Bowie.  Other factors, mostly in the future, were Dirk Minniefield, Dicky Beal, Melvin Turpin and Jim Master.

December 6, 1980 – (#2) Kentucky Wildcats 68 @(#5) Indiana Hoosiers 66

For most of this game, big man Sam Bowie really only showed his shooting touch from the outside.  He made the first basket when his jumper from the top of the key bounced in.  Later he made an alley-oop layup from Minniefield to put Kentucky up 6-1.  Then Minniefield and Bowie went out with two fouls and Indiana got going led by Isiah and Ray Tolbert.  They had the first 11 Hoosier point as they came back and briefly took a lead.  But Kentucky went on a 9-0 run as guard Derrick Hord found Cowan for a layup.  Then Hord scored on a baseline leaner and off the bench Charles Hurt followed by a Master airball.  Then to cap it Turpin rebounded and outletted to Beal who went coast-to-coast for a layup and a 21-11 Kentucky lead.  The lead was really short-lived as Beal was called for a charge after his basket and Wittman hit two free throws.  From there, Indiana made a run as Bowie got his 3rd foul and Landon Turner along with Ted Kitchel sparked them off the bench with 6 and 4 points, respectively.  Turner and Kitchel would eventually start for the Hoosiers as the season went along.  Kentucky held them off led by Cowan, who’s banker in the lane put the Wildcats up 37-33 at the half.

Bob Knight for the 2nd half went with the team that he would have in the starting lineup in the NCAA tournament – Turner, Kitchel, Tolbert, Isiah, and Wittman.  And only Tolbert was taken out for a few minutes.  Not surprisingly, Isiah sparked the Hoosiers to start the 2nd half as he got a steal and fed Turner for a layup and then got another steal and a breakaway to tie the game at 37.  Then Isiah fed Tolbert for a layup and scored himself on a Bowie goaltending.  Bowie and Thomas matched a few baskets before Indiana took a five-point lead at 47-42 when Isiah found Tolbert backdoor for a layup and Kitchel followed a Tolbert missed layup.  Kentucky cut it back to one when Bowie committed his 4th foul.  A field goal and free throw from Turner and a Wittman wing jumper on an Isiah assist put Indiana back up by six.  But then Hurt hit a free throw line jumper and starting junior forward Chuck Verderber hit two free throws, found Master for a corner jumper and then followed up a miss.  Kentucky had the lead 56-54.  Then Cowan’s two field goals matched Indiana’s effort and the game was tied at 60.

Kitchel followed up a Turner airball before Bowie hit both ends of a one-and-one.  Then Indiana took 1:30 or so off the clock before Isiah found Tolbert with an alley-oop but Ray missed the slam.  Kentucky broke and Cowan followed up a few misses for a 64-62 Wildcats lead.  Indiana came back as Turner kicked out to Kitchel who hit from the top of the key.  But then with 46 seconds left, Isiah fouled Minniefield.  Dirk made both ends of the one-and-one.  Indiana brought the ball back down and moved it around.  A pass by Kitchel in the corner inside to Turner was deflected by Hurt and saved back to Kentucky by Charles.  The Wildcats moved it around until timeout was called with 15 seconds left.  Then after the inbounds, Bowie was fouled and made 1-of-2.  Kentucky led 67-64 but Indiana could not go for a tying three.  Even the joke of an experimental three-point line hadn’t come to College Basketball yet, so Isiah instead had to drive for two with 5 seconds left.  Minniefield was fouled and made 1-of-2 but Tolbert’s heave from the other free throw line missed (although it hit the front rim).

Indiana struggled a bit to get their footing following this loss.  They were 7-5 and 10-7 at one point before finishing the season strong and heading into the tournament 20-9 with a #3 seed in the Mideast.  They blew out Maryland, UAB, and St. Joseph’s to reach the Final Four.  They played UAB and St. Joes instead of higher seeds DePaul (#1 seed, lost to St. Joes as we covered earlier) or Kentucky in a rematch.  The Wildcats lost to UAB in the 2nd round.  They finished the season losing their last two games after going 22-4 in the regular season.  Sam Bowie would miss the next two seasons with knee injuries.

Kentucky starters (points scored)

Fred Cowan (18) – Small Forward

Chuck Verderber (8) – Power Forward

Sam Bowie (14) – Center

Dirk Minniefield (5) – Point Guard

Derrick Hord (4) – Shooting Guard

Kentucky bench (points scored)

Dicky Beal (2)

Melvin Turpin (3)

Charles Hurt (4)

Jim Master (10)

Bret Bearup (0)

Bo Lanter (0)

Kentucky Coach: Joe B. Hall

Indiana starters (points scored)

Randy Wittman (6) – Small Forward

Steve Risley (0) – Power Forward

Ray Tolbert (11) – Center

Isiah Thomas (20) – Point Guard

Jim Thomas (0) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Steve Bouchie (0)

Landon Turner (15)

Glen Grunwald (2)

Ted Kitchel (12)

Charles Franz (0)

Phil Isenbarger (0)

Indiana Coach: Bobby Knight

February 9, 1981 – Georgetown Hoyas 64 @Syracuse Orangemen 66

A budding rivalry was developing in the young Big East.  On February 13, 1980, Georgetown traveled to Syracuse where the Orangemen had a 57-game winning streak on their home court, Manley Fieldhouse.  This game against the Hoyas was to be the final game the Syracuse Men’s Basketball team would play at Manley as they were set to move into the new, more spacious Carrier Dome.  Syracuse, who had senior stars Louis Orr and Roosevelt Bouie, held a 30-16 halftime lead.  But the Hoyas came back and two Sleepy Floyd free throws won the game for Georgetown 52-50.

Georgetown had won 5 games in a row against Syracuse (including later in the 1980 Big East Tournament and earlier in the 1981 season at Georgetown), but the final game at Manley stung the Syracuse fans the most.  And they waited almost a full year to try and get their revenge at the Carrier Dome.

This was also the early days of ESPN and one of their biggest draws was broadcasting college basketball during the week and during the early rounds of the NCAA tournament.  This was one of their Big East Monday Night games of the week (a staple that’s still around).

Syracuse and Georgetown both came into the game with pedestrian records and were unranked.  Georgetown was 11-8 with a 5-3 Conference record (which was tied for 3rd) and Syracuse was 13-7 with a 4-4 record (6th in the 8 team Big East at the time).

Syracuse got off to another flying start against Georgetown as their big man and one of two future NBA players on the roster Danny Schayes scored the first points on a layup from Tony Bruin (the other future NBA player was Leo Rautins, who didn’t play in this game).  Then Bruin got a defensive rebound and the senior back court of the Orangemen, Eddie Moss and Marty Headd, combined to give Syracuse a 4-0 lead.  Bruin then hit a three-point play for a 7-0 lead (seriously Tony Bruin couldn’t have gone to UCLA?).  Eddie Moss was one of the best defensive players in the Big East and throughout the first half he put the clamps on Sleepy Floyd.  After big Mike Frazier, the Hoyas backup center, cut Syracuse’s lead to 20-15 with a three-point play, the Orangemen were off and running.  Headd hit a wing jumper and then backup sophomore guard Erich Santifer hit a jumper from the free throw line.  Then Moss finished off a 3-on-1 and then found Headd in the corner for another jumper.  After Syracuse grabbed a 30-16 lead, Moss pick-pocketed Floyd at half court and drew a foul.  His free throws gave Syracuse a 16-point lead.  The Hoyas cut that lead down to 11 but a Schayes touch pass to Santifer put the Orangemen up 37-24 at the half.

The 2nd half started with Tony Bruin going baseline for a big slam and John Thompson calling an immediate timeout less than a minute into the 2nd half.  It didn’t help much initially as Frazier missed two free throws and Bruin scored on a finger roll for Syracuse’s biggest lead.  But Georgetown then started to get it together a bit as Ed Spriggs (the starting center this season but Patrick Ewing’s backup in 1982) hit a hook shot in the lane.  Then Floyd hit a free throw for his 7th point and then freshman defensive ace Gene Smith got a steal and finished a 3-on-2 (Smith missed a wide open layup in the first half after getting a steal.. he wouldn’t ever really be known as an offensive player at Georgetown, but defense yes).  Smith got another steal and layup after fellow freshman defensive ace Freddie Brown hit a free throw and it was suddenly 41-32 Syracuse.  The Orange responded as Ron Payton hit two free throws and Erich Santifer hit a short baseline jumper.

The Orangemen continued to hold off Georgetown as Danny Schayes was leading them by scoring and getting rebounds.  But there was always a sense that Georgetown was lurking (they were known by the announcers as a great comeback team, nicknamed the heart-attack Hoyas).  Moss eventually went out of the game with 4 fouls and Floyd slowly started to break loose.  His two free throws cut Syracuse’s lead to 60-50.  Then he scored on a baseline drive.  Then after Brown split a pair of free throws, Floyd hit a jumper from the wing and was fouled.  The three-point play cut it to 60-56 and then Brown hit an elbow jumper for a two-point game.  The Syracuse crowd at this point was at the ‘oh no! here we go again!’ stage.  The announcers, Len Berman and Big East commissioner and former Providence Coach and AD Dave Gavitt, were shocked as well.  Schayes hit two free throws for the final of his 19 points.  But then Floyd hit a baseline fade-away over Santifer.  Syracuse started running down the clock but Payton made a wide-open elbow jumper to put the Orangemen back up 64-60.  But then with 1:25 left, Frazier tipped in a Floyd miss.  Then Georgetown made the decision to foul Payton, who missed the front end of the 1-and-1.  With 20 seconds left, Brown found Eric Smith for a layup and the game was tied.

Syracuse called time and the play ended up going to senior Marty Headd, who drove and scored from the right of the lane with 5 seconds left.  Gene Smith had smartly called timeout when the ball went in (in those days the clock kept running after a made basket in the final minutes).  But Floyd air-balled a shot at the buzzer and Syracuse had finally broken its Georgetown ‘jinx’ and gotten revenge for the final game at Manley Fieldhouse in 1980.  Schayes had finished with 19 points and 23 rebounds (a Syracuse record for 9 years).  With this a great rivalry was developing.

Syracuse finished 6th in the Big East but ended up winning the Tournament by beating 2-seeded Georgetown in the Semis and knocking off Villanova in triple-overtime in the Championship (probably winning largely because it was at the Carrier Dome.. one of the three times in Big East Tournament history that it wasn’t at Madison Square Garden).  But unfortunately for Syracuse, the Big East in its 2nd season didn’t have an automatic bid yet.  So Syracuse went to the NIT and lost in the Championship Game to Tulsa.  Meanwhile, Georgetown was a 7-seed in the East and lost to James Madison in the 1st round.

Georgetown starters (points scored)

Eric Smith (11) – Small Forward

Mike Hancock (6) – Power Forward

Ed Spriggs (9) – Center

Fred Brown (10) – Point Guard

Sleepy Floyd (16) – Shooting Guard

Georgetown bench (points scored)

Gene Smith (6)

Jeff Bullis (0)

Mike Frazier (6)

Ray Knight (0)

Ron Blaylock (0)

Georgetown Coach: John Thompson

Syracuse starters (points scored)

Ron Payton (8) – Small Forward

Tony Bruin (10) – Power Forward

Danny Schayes (19) – Center

Eddie Moss (4) – Point Guard

Marty Headd (10) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored)

Sean Kerins (0)

Erich Santifer (13)

Gene Waldron (2)

Syracuse Coach: Jim Boeheim


Senior Marty Headd hit the game-winner versus Georgetown with 5 seconds left *photo courtesy of Orange hoops

March 19, 1981 – East Regional Semifinals: (#6) BYU Cougars 51, (#2) Notre Dame Fighting Irish 50

It was the tournament of buzzer beaters (as we sort of covered earlier) but this one stands out from the rest because of the remarkable play at the end.

Brigham Young was a 6-seed after finishing 3rd in the WAC.  They beat Princeton in round 1 before killing UCLA 78-55 in the 2nd round led by Danny Ainge’s 37.  They came into the Regional Semifinal with a 24-6 record and had more future NBA players other than Ainge.  Fred Roberts and Greg Kite were also members of the Celtics in the 1980’s.

Notre Dame came in with a 23-5 record and were a #2 seed.  They defeated James Madison in the 2nd round and had many future NBA stand-outs.  This included their forward combination of Kelly Tripucka and Orlando Woolridge, along with point guard John Paxson.  They also had Joe Kleine coming off the bench who would play his freshman year for the Irish before transferring to Arkansas.

Brigham Young liked to play at a fast pace.  So the goal of Notre Dame was to slow the game down.  And they managed to slow it down to a crawl, as you saw from the final score.  Paxson’s defense held Ainge to two free throws in the 1st half while Roberts and Kite combined for 2 points and each had 3 fouls.  Notre Dame opened with senior Tracy Jackson hitting a jumper from the left elbow and Tripucka scoring his only first half bucket on a baseline drive.  Tripucka did feed Woolridge twice for 5 straight points to put Notre Dame up 16-8.  Orlando had 11 at halftime but Notre Dame only took a 10-point lead with 34 seconds to go in the half as Jackson hit two free throws for his 6th and 7th point.  The Irish lead held at 28-18.

Tripucka drove baseline, scored and drew Kite’s 4th foul to start the 2nd half.  He missed the free throw but came back with a pull-up from the wing to give Notre Dame its biggest lead at 32-18.  Ainge then finally got on the board from the field when he pump faked Paxson on the baseline and then hit a leaner while Paxson fouled him.  Notre Dame maintained a 9-11 point lead for awhile as they continued with their deliberate pace and BYU couldn’t get going from the field.  Roberts committed his 4th foul after being called for a charge after a basket (which counted).  It cut Notre Dame’s lead to 40-31 but Woolridge on the basket had jumped up and grabbed the rim for a second.  Orlando was called for a technical and Ainge hit a free throw.  BYU then started to force some turnovers as Roberts got a breakaway layup to cut the lead to 40-34.  Then Ainge hit a corner jumper before Woolridge came back with back-to-back field goals.  At that moment, Orlando had 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting.

BYU cut it back to 44-40 on an Ainge steal and a Woolridge goaltend.  Then Roberts cut it to two on an offensive rebound.  Tripucka answered with a wing jumper for his 12th point and 10th of the 2nd half.  Roberts and reserve junior Greg Ballif each split a pair of free throws and the Cougars had a chance to tie.  But junior Steve Trumbo missed a pair of free throws.  But BYU got another chance when Tripucka missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  But Ainge’s backcourt partner and 6th year senior Steve Craig missed a jumper.  As he went after the rebound he fouled Jackson for his 5th foul.  Jackson made two free throws for a 48-44 Irish lead.  But then Greg Ballif, who would have been the unsung hero if not for Ainge, hit a driving banker with his left hand while he was fouled by Jackson.  To add insult to injury for Jackson, Greg Kite in going up for a possible tip-in came down and landed on Jackson’s face.  The senior was out for the rest of the game.

Irish sophomore big man Tim Andree missed a layup on the next possession but Ainge missed a pull-up to try and give BYU its first lead.  Then Notre Dame killed a minute off the clock before Roberts committed his 5th foul sending Woolridge to the line.  Orlando missed the front end and BYU got a fast break.  But Ainge was called for traveling just before he dished to Kite for a layup.  However, BYU forced a jump ball with 1:17 left.  This was the last year before the possession arrow came into effect.  BYU controlled the jump and Ballif hit from the top of the key with 52 seconds left for a 49-48 BYU lead.  Notre Dame called time and then ran 28 seconds off the clock before calling their last timeout at 24 seconds.

Paxson eventually found Tripucka at the wing.  Kelly drove baseline, was cut off, but hit a pull-up jumper with 10 seconds left.  BYU’s timeout was recognized at 8 seconds.  They had to go the length of the floor.  History set in – Ainge got the ball in the backcourt closely guarded by Paxson.  He drove by John but was cut off by two man.  Ainge did a behind-the-back dribble at half court to get by those defenders before he was cut off by Andree at the foul line.  He drove by Tim and hit the layup over Woolridge’s leap to win the game with 2 seconds left.  The clock ran out before Notre Dame could get the ball in.  Here’s the play.

BYU lost to top-seeded Virginia and Ralph Sampson in the Regional Finals, 74-60, but this play will live in their lore.

Brigham Young starters (points scored)

Steve Trumbo (2) – Small Forward

Fred Roberts (11) – Power Forward

Greg Kite (2) – Center

Steve Craig (10) – Point Guard

Danny Ainge (12) – Shooting Guard

Brigham Young bench (points scored)

Timo Saarelainen (4)

Gary Furniss (0)

Greg Ballif (10)

Brigham Young Coach: Frank Arnold

Notre Dame starters (points scored)

Kelly Tripucka (14) – Small Forward

Orlando Woolridge (17) – Power Forward

Tim Andree (2) – Center

John Paxson (4) – Point Guard

Tracy Jackson (11) – Shooting Guard

Notre Dame bench (points scored)

Joe Kleine (2)

Bill Varner (0)

Tom Sluby (0)

Notre Dame Coach: Digger Phelps

March 30, 1981 – National Championship Game: (#3) Indiana Hoosiers 63, (#2) North Carolina Tarheels 50

Half of the 1981 Final Four were 1-seeds, neither of which made the National Championship Game.  Indiana trailed LSU 30-27 before out-scoring them 11-0 to start the half and 40-19 overall in the 2nd half.  That was Indiana’s 4th consecutive dominant performance in the tournament.  They beat Maryland 99-64, UAB 87-72, St. Joseph’s 78-46 and then LSU 67-49.

The top two teams in the ACC in 1981 were Virginia and North Carolina.  Virginia was undefeated until February 22 when Notre Dame came back and beat them in South Bend.  This undefeated record included two wins against North Carolina.  In the 2nd matchup at Chapel Hill, UNC had a big 2nd half lead but Virginia came back and won 80-79.  Virginia finished 13-1 in the conference while UNC was 10-4.  But Virginia lost to Maryland in the semifinals of the ACC tournament and North Carolina beat Maryland by one in the Championship.

The two teams made it to the Final Four to face each other a third time.  Virginia featured All-Americans and future NBA players Jeff Lamp and Ralph Sampson.  North Carolina had All-American Al Wood to go with future NBA frontline stars sophomore James Worthy and freshman Sam Perkins.  Wood scored 39, including 25 in the 2nd half, to beat Virginia 78-65 as UNC held Sampson to 11 points.

This set up the match between two of the greatest coaches of all-time, Bobby Knight and Dean Smith.

Indiana got off to a slow start as North Carolina got off to an 8-2 lead led by Perkins’ 5 points.  But then the Hoosiers got their first field goal 5:15 into the game when reserve Steve Risley tipped in an Isiah Thomas miss.  Risley had come into the game after starter Ted Kitchel got three fouls.  Kitchel would not return until 1982.

After Risley’s tip-in, Isiah hit a pull-up from the free throw line and then Ray Tolbert hit a short banker to tie the game at 8.  North Carolina then went on another run as Perkins found Wood for a layup and his first field goal.  Then floor-leader and defensive standout Jimmy Black stole the ball from Isiah and scored.  Then Black found Perkins in the post for a banker.  The run was capped when Wood drove left at the free throw line and finished with his right hand.  The Tarheels had a 16-8 lead.  But then Landon Turner scored on an offensive rebound and a short baseline jumper off Isiah’s feed.  Randy Wittman’s wing jumper cut UNC’s lead to 20-16.  Then Isiah found Turner for a slam and Wittman tied the game with a corner jumper.

A big spark for the Hoosiers in the Semifinals against LSU as well as against UNC was reserve Jim Thomas.  Thomas didn’t score much (only 4 points in the Final Four) but he contributed rebounds, assists, defense and hustle that ended up sparking the Hoosiers and getting him a spot on the all-tournament team.

After Worthy hit 5 consecutive Carolina points, he committed his 3rd foul on what was described as a ridiculous call by Billy Packer.  Worthy would not score the rest of the game.  Randy Wittman hit his 4th field goal in a row at the buzzer as Isiah found him in the corner.  This gave Indiana its first lead at 27-26 at the half.  It would be the last lead change of the game.

Carolina started with possession in the 2nd half but the ball went through Jimmy Black’s hands and Isiah stole and it and scored.  Worthy found Perkins with a lob for a basket but then Isiah found Turner for a layup and then he stole an entry pass to the post and went coast-to-coast.  A Wittman jumper put Indiana up 35-28.  Black hit from the corner but Isiah answered with his own corner jumper.  Then Tolbert blocked a Wood layup and Jim Thomas found Isiah backdoor and it was 39-30 and UNC finally called a timeout.  It didn’t help much as Turner’s hook in the lane answered a Wood field goal.  And then Isiah’s jumper from the foul line on another Jim Thomas assist answered a Black jumper.  Wittman’s leaner off the glass put the Hoosiers up 45-34.  Wood scored 4 straight points but Worthy committed his 4th foul.  Indiana answered with four straight points of their own as Jim Thomas found Wittman for a layup and Isiah hit on a double-pump.

Wood split a pair of free throws after Turner committed his 5th foul.  For Landon Turner it looked like a bright future in basketball.  But on July 25, 1981 he was driving one of the two-lane country roads near Bloomington when he lost control of his car and it sped into a culvert and flipped over.  Turner was paralyzed from the chest down.  His early story was covered in SI in December, 1981.  The Celtics used a 10th round pick to draft him in 1982 as a great symbolic gesture.  Here’s a more recent what might have been.

Worthy fouled out with Indiana up 49-39 and the Hoosiers got their last field goal when Jim Thomas again found Isiah (the Tournament’s most outstanding player) for a layup.  The rest of the Hoosiers scoring was on free throws.  The had a few turnovers but the closest Carolina got was 8.  Knight had his 2nd championship while Dean Smith still ‘couldn’t win the big one.’  That would change next season with the help of a certain freshman.

Indiana starters (points scored)

Landon Turner (12) – Small Forward

Ted Kitchel (0) – Power Forward

Ray Tolbert (5) – Center

Isiah Thomas (23) – Point Guard

Randy Wittman (16) – Shooting Guard

Indiana banch (points scored)

Jim Thomas (2)

Steve Risley (5)

Indiana Coach: Bobby Knight

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Al Wood (18) – Small Forward

James Worthy (7) – Power Forward

Sam Perkins (11) – Center

Jimmy Black (6) – Point Guard

Mike Pepper (6) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Jimmy Braddock (0)

Eric Kenny (0)

Pete Budko (0)

Matt Doherty (2)

Chris Brust (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

isiah '81 vs unc

Isiah Thomas had 19 2nd half points in the 1981 Championship Game, including this layup after a steal from Jimmy Black (#21) *photo courtesy of tumblr

Isiah ended up being the #2 pick to the Detroit Pistons in 1981.  He would team with Notre Dame’s Kelly Tripucka in Detroit.  Tripucka was the 12th pick.  Al Wood would be selected #4 to San Diego.  He ended up having a few good years for Seattle but didn’t amount to much.  DePaul’s Mark Aguirre was the top pick to Dallas and New Jersey would select Maryland’s duo of Buck Williams and Albert King with the #3 and #10 picks.  Other notable players from this 1981 post that were drafted in ’81 was Danny Ainge, who went in the 2nd round to Boston, as well as Orlando Woolridge, selected at #6 by Chicago, Danny Schayes, selected #13 by Utah, Jeff Lamb, selected #15 by Portland, Ray Tolbert, selected #18 by New Jersey, and Tracy Jackson, selected #25 by Boston.  Jackson played 11 games for Boston before being sold to Chicago.  He was out of the league by 1984.

Also selected were standouts in my previous college basketball posts that were drafted in ’81 – Michigan State’s Jay Vincent, #24 to Dallas, Duke’s Gene Banks, #28 to San Antonio, DePaul’s Clyde Bradshaw, #38 to Atlanta (Bradshaw never played in the NBA), Duke’s Kenny Dennard, in the 4th round to Kansas City and Louisville’s Roger Burkman, in the 6th round to Chicago.

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