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1981 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament

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Season  1980–81
MOP  Isiah Thomas Indiana
Teams  48
Finals site  Spectrum
Winning coach  Bob Knight (2nd title)
Dates  12 Mar 1981 – 30 Mar 1981
Attendance  347,414
1981 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament httpssmediacacheak0pinimgcom736xfad097
Champions  Indiana (4th title, 4th title game, 5th Final Four)
Runner-up  North Carolina (5th title game, 8th Final Four)
Semifinalists  Virginia (1st Final Four) LSU (2nd Final Four)
Champion  Indiana Hoosiers men's basketball
Similar  1982 NCAA Division I, 1973 NCAA Men's Div, 1977 NCAA Men's Div, 1990 NCAA Division I

The 1981 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament involved 48 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national champion of men's NCAA Division I college basketball. It began on March 12, 1981, and ended with the championship game on March 30 in Philadelphia. A total of 48 games were played, including a national third place game (the last in the NCAA tournament). It was also the last tournament to be televised on NBC, before CBS took over the following year.


Indiana, coached by Bob Knight, won the national title with a 63-50 victory over North Carolina, coached by Dean Smith. Isiah Thomas of Indiana was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

The March 14 upsets

The date of Saturday, March 14, 1981, was noteworthy in that it resulted in three major second round tournament upsets which were decided by last-second baskets.

St. Joseph's trailed #1 seed DePaul by seven at about the midway point of the second half, in an early afternoon Mideast Region game from Dayton, Ohio. However, with 48 seconds left, the Hawks had rallied to within 48-47. Blue Demons guard Skip Dillard was fouled with 13 seconds left. Dillard was known as 'Money' for his superb free throw shooting, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, and St. Joseph's got the rebound, then quickly passed the ball to the front court without calling a timeout. Guard Bryan Warrick got the ball to freshman Lonnie McFarlan who was wide open in the right corner. McFarlan began to shoot until forward John Smith yelled "Please!" to him. McFarlan passed to Smith, who was open underneath the basket. Smith's layup with two seconds left enabled the Hawks of coach Jim Lynam to stun the Blue Demons of Ray Meyer, 49-48.

Later in the afternoon in Austin, Texas, Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton called timeout with 5 seconds left after falling behind Louisville in the Midwest Region, 73-72 on a jumper by guard Derek Smith. Sutton told his team to get the ball to U.S. Reed. The Razorbacks' guard dribbled to near half court, then launched a 49-foot shot that beat the buzzer and swished through the net, as Arkansas dethroned the defending national champion Cardinals of Denny Crum, 74-73. Sutton told the media, "Champions die hard."

Only moments after the Razorbacks' upset, the season ended for another #1 seed in the West Region. Oregon State led Kansas State by as much as 11 points in the second half. Coach Ralph Miller and center Steve Johnson had led the Beavers to a two-year record of 52-4. Then Rolando Blackman led the Wildcats back with a 16-6 run to tie the game, 48-48 with 3:23 left. Johnson then fouled out, and both teams stalled with the ball until Oregon State missed the front end of a one-and-one from the foul line. K-State then held for the last shot. With two seconds left, Blackman, double-teamed, drilled a fall-away 17 footer from the right baseline for a 50-48 upset by the Wildcats of Jack Hartman.

In another second round Mideast Region upset, Alabama-Birmingham defeated Kentucky, 69-62. A semifinal in the East Region saw Danny Ainge dribble the length of the court and drive all the way in for a layup and another buzzer-beating winner, lifting Brigham Young over Notre Dame, 51-50.

Greg Johnson of ncaa.com, in a March 9, 2011 article, indicated that March 14, 1981 was a date which defined March Madness.

First and Second rounds

  • Austin, Texas (Frank Erwin Center)
  • Charlotte, North Carolina (Charlotte Coliseum)
  • Dayton, Ohio (University of Dayton Arena)
  • El Paso, Texas (Special Events Center)
  • Los Angeles (Pauley Pavilion)
  • Providence, Rhode Island (Providence Civic Center)
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Memorial Coliseum)
  • Wichita, Kansas (Henry Levitt Arena)
  • Bracket

    * – Denotes overtime period

    Final Four

    NOTES: 1. This was the last tournament that a third place game was staged prior to the national championship.

    NBC Announcers

  • Dick Enberg, Billy Packer and Al McGuire
  • Don Criqui or Bob Costas and Gary Thompson
  • Marv Albert and Bucky Waters
  • Jay Randolph and Steve Grote
  • Charlie Jones and Lynn Shackelford
  • Merle Harmon and Matt Goukas
  • References

    1981 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament Wikipedia

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