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NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Historical Perspective - Dan Dakich Out-Duels Michael Jordan

Dan Dakich joined Dean Smith as the only people to hold Michael Jordan under 20 points a game

Dan Dakich

There was an old joke that Dean Smith was the only person to hold Michael Jordan under 20 points per game. That said, in the 1984 NCAA Tournament, the most unlikely person also staked this claim. This would be none other than Indiana’s Dan Dakich.

To say the 1983-84 North Carolina Tar Heels were a juggernaut would be an understatement. Dean Smith’s team had EIGHT McDonalds All Americans on the roster (Sam Perkins, Michael Jordan, Brad Daugherty, Kenny Smith, Matt Dorherty, Buzz Peterson, Joe Wolf, and Dave Popson). Carolina went 26-1 in the regular season, 14-0 in conference play. Their only loss was by 1 at Arkansas. However the Tar Heels were upset by Duke in the ACC Tournament semi-finals (paving the way for Maryland capturing the ACC Tournament championship).

The 1983-84 Indiana Hoosiers went 20-8, 13-5 in Big Ten games. Many thought the Hoosiers were a year away from competing at a high level. However, freshman guard Steve Alford was as good as advertised. Alford led Indiana in scoring at more than 15 points per game. Also on Indiana’s team was a reserve guard named Dan Dakich. Dakich averaged just under 4 points per game in limited play, but he would play a vital role against North Carolina.

After knocking off Richmond in the round of 32 (following a first round bye) the #1 ranked Tar Heels were up next for Indiana in the Sweet 16. Steve Alford led the Hoosiers with 22 points against the Spiders. Dan Dakich came off the bench to score 4 points for Indiana. Prior to facing #1 North Carolina in Atlanta, Bobby Knight made Dan Dakich a starter matched up against Michael Jordan (who just happened to be the Naismith Player of the Year). Knight’s instructions to Dakich were simple: “Just don’t let him dunk on you. That will embarrass me and you both.”

As the game got under way, Dakich’s strategy was to play a bit off of Jordan; to guard against His Airness from turning the corner and going to the rim for a highlight-reel dunk. This strategy worked, as the college Michael Jordan wasn’t the feared jump shooter that he would become in the NBA. The 2 personal fouls Jordan picked up in the first half further hampered the Tar Heels, allowing Indiana to take a 32-28 halftime lead.

Steve Alford scoring on Michael Jordan in the 1984 Sweet 16
Getty Images

As good of a defensive job Dan Dakich was doing on Michael Jordan, it was Steve Alford that the Tar Heels had no answer for. Matched up against fellow freshman Kenny Smith, Alford was scoring at will and more importantly not turning the ball over against the Tar Heels’ changing defenses: man-to-man, 1-3-1 zone, and 1-3-1 half-court run-and-jump trap. Indiana kept efficiently running their motion offense and Michael Jordan was kept at bay, allowing the Hoosiers to take a 12-point second-half lead.

It was at this point that CBS commentator Billy Packer tempted fate, saying that Indiana had the game wrapped up. North Carolina had a ton of talent, primarily senior center Sam Perkins. Perkins, who played against Indiana in the 1981 National Championship Game, finished with 26 points and did everything he could to carry the Tar Heels. Indiana also uncharacteristically kept missing free throws (note that there was no double-bonus in 1984, all non-shooting fouls were single-bonus 1-and-1 after #7), allowing Carolina to creep back toward what appeared to be one of their patented comebacks.

It turned out that Dean Smith couldn’t work his magic this evening. Michael Jordan eventually fouled out, being held to a mere 13 points due to Dan Dakich’s defense. It was when Matt Dorherty fouled out, in tears, that Indiana sealed their 72-68 upset of the #1 ranked Tar Heels in what turned out to be Michael Jordan’s final game in Carolina blue. Steve Alford played all 40 minutes and scored 27 points, but it was Dan Dakich’s performance keeping Michael Jordan from going off that carried the Hoosiers to victory.

North Carolina was absolutely stunned by the loss. Dean Smith cut his post-game press conference short. Roy Williams, a Tar Heels assistant coach, is still bothered by that loss to this day:

“That was a really tough, emotional day. That was a fantastic, fantastic basketball game and a fantastic game played by Indiana, coached by Bob Knight, and played by Steve Alford, Dan Dakich and all those guys. It was one of the most negative moments ever in my basketball life.”

And if you tune into a college basketball game Dan Dakich is calling, he won’t be bashful to state that he and Dean Smith are the only 2 people to hold Michael Jordan under 20 points a game.