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Michael Williams and Zach Griffith | Special to NCAA.com | April 8, 2019

Two college basketball writers watched that Bird vs. Magic game for the first time

March Madness Classic: 1979 Michigan State vs. Indiana State

Editor’s Note: When Virginia and Texas Tech play for a NCAA championship Monday night, the game will mark the first time in 40 years – since Larry Bird and Indiana State met Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michigan State – that first-time finalists will compete for the title. Two students from the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI in Indianapolis, Mike Williams and Zach Griffith, shared their observations from a 21st Century perspective as they watched the Sycamores and Spartans take the Final Four to a new level of popularity.  

First Half

(0:11) Mike: Magic Johnson falling into Larry Bird seems like foreshadowing for a rivalry that defined 80s basketball.

(0:15) Zach: It looks like Michigan State is going to double team Bird every time he gets the ball. I wonder how many times they DON’T double team him.

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(1:53) Mike: The presentation is almost like a radio broadcast when someone scores because there is no score overlay. We have no idea how much time is left in the half. They don’t even tell the time when there is a score shown.

(4:20) Zach: Even when they cut to commercial, there’s no time listed. Also, nice music! And nice pants from Heathcote.

(4:38) Zach: Only a sophomore and he was fifth all-time. That’s insane.

(5:43 below) Zach: They’re doubling him even when he doesn’t have the ball.

(5:43) Mike: With all the talk about Magic, Greg Kelser is having his way with the Sycamores.

(5:43) Zach: There’s no interior defense. Kelser looks like an NBA player.

(9:43) Mike: That was the real time reference when he says 8:43 left to play going into the second commercial break. After the break he says that less than six minutes have been played…what’s up with that?

(10:09) Zach: Indiana State really wants to slow the game down, but Michigan State keeps pushing it.

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(10:22) Zach: Hey, they missed the double dribble there too!

(10:22) Mike: And a foul in the corner! That seems awfully familiar.

(11:00) Mike: Indiana State can’t figure out the Michigan State zone. When they do try to get inside, they launch the ball into the stands.

(11:55 below) Zach: Now he says there’s more time left in the game.

(11:55) Mike: I have no idea how much time is really left in the half.

(12:00) Zach: I keep thinking Kelser is Johnson.

(13:23) Zach: It’s the year Indiana won the NIT.

(13:23) Mike: I honestly had no idea they won a NIT. I wonder if they claim that banner every time you hear “banners.”

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(14:05) Mike: Larry is a bigger guy and just went under 15.  

(14:05) Zach: Dirty Larry.

(14:25) Zach: Magic with the old Tim Duncan bank shot.

(16:05) Mike: Every time the ball gets to the paint, Michigan State greets it with a double team. It doesn’t matter who it is.

(18:50 below) Mike: Larry Bird is insane there, stopping the alley-oop.

(18:50) Zach: That’s not a steal, that’s an interception.

(18:50) Mike: And he kept the ball inbounds. Incredible.

(19:00) Zach: I’m guessing Bird and Magic are going to play the whole half.

(19:00 below) Mike: I’m okay with this. I just don’t know where we are in the half. The time has not been on the screen in 20 minutes of this video and they’re all over the place their time references.

(21:10) Zach: That rim just sounds horrible. 

(22:10) Mike: Bird nearly gets beat but recovers for a beautiful block.

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(29:40) Zach: That didn’t look like a foul on Johnson.

(29:40) Mike: I didn’t realize he got in foul trouble in this game. Indiana State hasn’t really been able to take advantage on the free throw line.

(31:28) Zach: That possession right there justifies the shot clock.

(31:28) Mike: With no three-point line, you don’t see as many off-ball screens and people getting open. It looks like a high school game.

(31:28) Zach: It seemed like they had the ball forever. (It was 34 seconds)

(32:04 below) Mike: 32:04 into this game broadcast and we finally see a clock. With less than three minutes left in the half. Incredible. I bet this game would be hard to follow strictly based on the commentary, if you’re blind and tuning into this.

(32:04) Zach: Imagine just turning this game on at a random time. You wouldn’t know what the score is until someone finally scores. You have no real way of keeping up with the time.

(33:25) Mike: 33:25 and Dick Enberg finally re-introduces himself with Billy Packer. Less than two minutes left in the half. 

(34:35) Zach: Number 44 just got dropped.

(34:55) Zach: Should’ve been a three.

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(34:55) Mike: I really think this is a closer game if there were 3-pointers. Indiana State is hitting a lot of deep shots.

(37:05) Mike: So Kelser and Magic each have three fouls.

Halftime Thoughts

(38:48) Zach: They mentioned earlier that they hoped Magic stayed another year. Magic probably doesn’t end up on the Lakers if he stays. 

(38:48) Mike: Golden State had the No. 1 pick in 1980. And the Lakers got their No. 1 pick from Utah. It reminds me of the Pacers trading away a pick that could’ve landed them Michael Jordan.

Second Half

(38:50 below) Zach: Wait, they did a tip-off to start the second half?

(38:50) Mike: I just realized I haven’t seen any kind of possession arrow and don’t remember hearing one referenced. Did they even use one?

(39:50) Mike: That would’ve been a three for Donnelly.

(39:50 below) Zach: There’s been a least five of those. Mostly from Indiana State. They’re definitely more of a shooting team. Michigan State has mostly been trying to pass it inside.

(39:50) Mike: Indiana State just keeps passing the ball along the perimeter. They can’t get inside. I feel like they would play faster if there was a three-point line with off-ball screens.

(40:00) Mike: Michigan State has nearly shut down Bird. Nobody else on Indiana State can beat them.

(40:00) Mike: I just realized there haven’t been any media timeouts.  Low-key, that’s the best thing about this game.

(45:06) Zach: Larry Bird, with a little bit of a flop. Kelser’s fourth foul.

(46:12 below) Mike: Michigan State just put on a passing clinic and did what Indiana State has been trying to do for most of this game. Found Donnelly open from deep. I keep trying to call it “for three.”

(47:40) Mike: Larry Bird just missed a free throw! He’s about to put his blue jeans on and shoot 100 of those after the game.

(48:26) Zach: What a pass! What. A. Pass. Nicks to Staley and earns an and-one. 

(49:39) Mike: So there’s no possession arrow. I love that. Bring back the jump ball.

(50:10) Mike: Heathcote was wide open on the bench.

(51:22) Mike: Bird is trying to will the team back. Hits the contested jumper. Grabs a rebound on the other end and draws a foul while grabbing an offensive foul. Getting it done on both ends. It reminds me of watching Kyle Guy against Purdue.

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(53:36) Mike: I just feel like this game doesn’t give what comes to mind if you say, “Magic vs. Bird.”

(53:36) Zach: Yeah, it seems like this is the first time Magic has done anything for a while.

(55:00) Mike: Indiana State has cut the 16-point deficit to six. This has turned into a good game. I feel like a three-point shot would make this a great game. I just don’t think this game would matter much if not for the Magic vs. Bird storyline.

(1:03:22) Zach: First dunk in the game.

(1:03:22) Mike: The epitome of posterizing someone.

(1:18:30) Mike: If Indiana State could hit free throws in this game, they might have won it.

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(1:18:46) Mike: Magic was named the Most Outstanding Player, but I would’ve voted for Kelser.

Mike:  I get being frustrated but what is he thinking there? That’s dumb technical on Bird’s part.

Final Thoughts

Zach: I don’t think it lives up to the “Magic vs. Bird” hype. Kelser had the best game. Bird didn’t really have that great of a game, and Magic got into foul trouble.

Mike: Michigan State decided to focus on Bird and make Carl Nicks beat them. Indiana State shot horribly from the free throw line. I feel like watching on TV would’ve been more exciting if we knew what the time was while Indiana State was making its comeback attempt.