Before 1979, March Madness hadn’t yet gone mad. It took powerhouse Michigan State, led by Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and tiny Indiana State, led by Larry Bird, to bring the NCAA tournament and college basketball itself into the national consciousness. The Sycamores of Terre Haute, Ind., had never had a great men’s basketball team. But with Bird’s arrival in 1976, the “hick from French Lick” immediately lifted Indiana State’s program, scoring 30 points a game and guiding his team to an undefeated season going into the 1979 tournament. Johnson and the Spartans were waiting, though, and they soundly defeated Indiana State 75-64. The team’s amazing run was over, but the Sycamores helped usher in the modern era of college basketball and showed that even the smallest of schools can go deep in the tournament.
When the Shoe Fits