This is the seventh in our series of posts that “preview” notable NCAA Tournament games in Indiana’s storied history. These are companion posts for our live rewatch series that we are doing in place of the cancelled 2020 NCAA Tournament.
Today, we will preview the championship game of the 1981 NCAA Tournament — Indiana, the #3 seed in the Mideast Region, against North Carolina, the #2 seed in the West Region.
The live rewatch and postgame show for the IU-North Carolina game takes place on Friday, April 10th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Click here to access the YouTube replay of the game.
Breaking down the matchup:
Indiana (25-9) vs. North Carolina (29-7)
- Indiana: Bob Knight (10th season with school)
- North Carolina: Dean Smith (20th season with school)
Indiana traveled to Chapel Hill earlier in the season and lost to the Tar Heels, 65-56.
Indiana probable starters:
- G. Isiah Thomas (So.)
- G. Randy Wittman (Sr.)
- F. Ted Kitchel (Jr.)
- F. Landon Turner (Jr.)
- F. Ray Tolbert (Sr. )
North Carolina probable starters:
- G. Mike Pepper (Sr.)
- G. Jimmy Black (Jr.)
- G. Al Wood (Sr.)
- F. Sam Perkins (Fr.)
- F. James Worthy (So.)
Indiana game notes:
The Hoosiers’ season got off to a rocky start, with a 7-5 entering Big Ten conference play. However, a 14-4 record in conference play led Indiana to a conference title, their sixth under head coach Bob Knight.
In their first four NCAA Tournament matchups, Indiana has overpowered its opponents, winning by an average of 26 points. IU defeated LSU in the national semi-final, 67-49.
North Carolina game notes:
North Carolina finished as the runner-up in the ACC Conference regular season, and went on to claim victory in the ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels reached the Final Four by defeating the likes of Pittsburgh, Utah, and Kansas State. UNC defeated Virginia 78-65 in the national semi-final game.
What to expect — Indiana:
Bob Knight’s Hoosiers have been involved in what he calls a “maturation process” since December. Whether that is focused directly on how forward Landon Turner has stepped up his game and become a force in the paint, or a reflection of the overall progress of the team as a whole, is open for interpretation.
Speedy guard Isiah Thomas has the ability to take over a game single-handedly with his play-making, but also can dump it down to the aformentioned Turner, or senior center Ray Tolbert. Shooting threats Randy Wittman and Ted Kitchel can also pose challenges to North Carolina if they get hot.
Keep an eye on reserve guard Jimmy Thomas, as he too has the ability to command the point position for IU.
What to expect — North Carolina
Since a home loss to Wake Forest (84-68) late in conference play, the Tar Heels have reeled off 11 wins in their last 12 games, and are peaking at the right time, similar to Indiana.
U.S. Olympian Al Wood is the most dangerous scorer for a UNC team that also can depend on freshman Sam Perkins and sophomore James Worthy (both of whom average north of 14 points per game). Wood set an NCAA national semi-final record with his 39-point performance against Virginia. Should Randy Wittman or even Landon Turner get the starting defensive assignment on Wood, limiting his touches will be a must if Indiana will win a second national title in the “City of Brotherly Love”.
If you want to know the result of the game and see the box score, click here.