The 1978 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament involved 32 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national champion of men’s NCAA Division I college basketball….which began on March 11, 1978 and ended with the championship game on March 27 in St. Louis, Missouri….in a tournament where a total of 32 games were played, including a national 3rd place game.
The process of seeding the bracket was first used in this tournament. Sixteen conference winners with automatic bids were seeded 1 through 4 in each region…..while at-large teams were seeded 1 through 4 in each region separately. There were in fact only 11 true at-large teams in the field,….as the remaining 5 teams were conference winners with automatic bids who were seeded as “at-large.” The practice of distinguishing between automatic and at-large teams was ended after this tournament….and the expanded field of 40 was simply seeded from 1 to 10 in the 1979 tournament.
The University of Kentucky, coached by Joe B. Hall, won the national title with a 94–88 victory in the final game over Duke….which was coached by Bill E. Foster. Kentucky G Jack Givens was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
The biggest upset of the tournament took place in the first round, when little-heralded Miami (Ohio) defeated defending champion Marquette 84-81 in overtime….whereby the victory was even sweeter for the Miami Redskins (now RedHawks) fans as former Marquette coach Al McGuire had earlier strongly criticized the NCAA for potentially matching Marquette against Kentucky in the second round….with Marquette being given a first-round opponent in Miami that was supposedly not even worthy of providing an adequate tune-up game.
Unranked Cal State Fullerton (CSUF) pulled off two upsets….first over 4th ranked New Mexico, coached by Norm Ellenberger and led by Michael Cooper, and then over top-10 San Francisco featuring C Bill Cartwright….as CSUF then almost upset Arkansas in the West Regional final, losing by 3 points.
In the Mideast regional final, Kentucky knocked off top-seeded Michigan State….which was led by freshman Earvin “Magic” Johnson….for this was the only time in a 4-year period….which included his senior year in high school, 2 years of college, and his rookie NBA season….that Magic’s team did not win the final game of the playoffs and hence the championship.
The 1978–79 NBA season was the 33rd season of the National Basketball Association….as the season ended with the Seattle Super Sonics winning the NBA Championship by beating the Washington Bullets 4 games to 1 in the NBA Finals….which was a rematch of the previous year’s Finals….but with the opposite result.
Notable events from the 1978 NBA season were the Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego, California and became the San Diego Clippers….the Detroit Pistons moved from the Midwest Division of the Western Conference to the Central Division of the Eastern Conference, where they remain today in 2019….the Washington Bullets shifted from the Central Division to the Atlantic Division….while the NBA adopted a three-official system similar to the one used in college basketball on a one-year trial basis….when the experiment is scrapped for the 1979–80 season….but returns permanently in 1988–89….The 1979 NBA All-Star Game was played at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, with the West defeating the east 134 – 129 in overtime with David Thompson of the Denver Nuggets winning the MVP award…..while the Jazz played their final season in New Orleans, Louisiana before moving to Salt Lake City…..when it would be 23 years before the city received the Pelicans….the Los Angeles Lakers play their final season under ownership of Jack Kent Cooke….thus enter Dr. Jerry Buss….and this was the last time both conference finals went to a deciding Game 7 until 2018.