PHILADELPHIA -- It’s a new building, but the last time the storied Indiana and North Carolina men’s basketball programs faced off in Philadelphia, an NCAA championship was on the line.

Indiana play-by-play voice Don Fischer, in his 43rd year in that role, has vivid memories of the City of Brotherly Love. The Hoosiers also capped their undefeated 1976 season with a win in The Spectrum.

The 1981 Hoosiers, who won the title over North Carolina with a 63-50 victory 35 years ago on March 30, were a slow-starting group, Fischer recalled, drawing a slight comparison to this year’s Hoosiers. Another similarity is that both teams were led by an All-American point guard wearing No. 11, Isiah Thomas in 1981 and Yogi Ferrell this season.

“Indiana had a really bad start,” Fischer said. “They were 7-5 going into Big Ten play. [Coach Bob] Knight kind of had the reins on Isiah. I don’t want to say they had conflicts, but Isiah wasn’t playing quite the way he’d like to play. He certainly wasn’t playing the way Knight wanted him to play.”

Another guard was also having issues.

“Landon Turner was having problems. Had shown brilliance but wasn’t consistent,” Fischer said. “Everybody knew he was kind of a party boy. His teammates talked to him about it. Knight talked to him about it. Finally, Knight sat him down for two or three games, didn’t play him at all.

"When Turner returned to the starting lineup, that team just took off. They were as dominant a team as the '76 team was. They really were.”

Randy Wittman hit a 15-footer before halftime for IU’s first lead and Thomas sparked the Hoosiers to the title with two steals that turned into layups.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams was an assistant at the time on a team led by Sam Perkins, James Worthy and Al Wood.

“But what I remember is that it was just a normal day trying to get ready to play for a national championship, which is not a normal day, I understand that. But we were trying to get ready. And all of a sudden the tragedy happened with President Reagan,” Williams said. “It was either C.M. Newton or Dave Gavitt came and got Coach {Dean} Smith and he and Coach Knight and they went and talked. Coach came back and said the president looks like he's going to be okay and we're going to play.”

That was the day President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley.

IU and North Carolina also met in the 1984 NCAA Tournament in a East Region semifinal. The Hoosiers upset the top-seeded Tar Heels 72-68 as Dan Dakich helped put the clamps on UNC star Michael Jordan with a “bulldog” type performance, Fischer said.

Williams said he didn’t make it a point to discuss those memorable moments in the series between the two programs.

“I haven't shared with them any of those things. I mean, my guys — you know 10 years ago my guys thought Michael Jordan invented the game. Now they don't even know who Michael Jordan is, if it weren't for the Hanes commercials,” Williams said. “Kids are in today's times. If I were to talk to them about '81 and '84, guys, I think I may have a — I started to say I have a coach that wasn't even born then. I don't know that my guys understand that. And maybe I'm wrong, but I'm not talking about that to them.

“I’m talking to them about this team, this year, how they played, how they've gotten better, how they need to get better. But historical significance of the game comes more for us, more for you guys and more for our readers. It doesn't come a lot for the 17-, 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds.”

Most recent meeting

The most recent meeting in the series came when Indiana was ranked No. 1 in the country in 2012. The Hoosiers won 83-59 in Assembly Hall.

“That was a really good team,” said Brice Johnson, a freshman for the Tar Heels at that time. “They were potentially — they were supposed to win the championship, weren't they? I mean, like I said, that was a really good team. Had guys like Cody Zeller on the team, Victor Oladipo and those guys are very successful right now in their careers in the NBA. Very good team. For us it was: We were kind of thrown in the fire, after the 2012 season when the guys made it to Elite Eight and they were coming in and you've got to go to Indiana and play in Assembly Hall. Very tough place to play. I thought it was probably one of the worst places for us to play as a freshman. So it was weird.”

Seven-year “drought”

North Carolina has not been to the Final Four since 2009, the seven-year absence, incredibly, the longest since the nine-year drought from 1982 to 1991.

Williams was a UNC assistant on the 1982 national champions, then he was the Kansas head coach in 1991, defeating his mentor Smith in the national semifinal.

“And Coach Smith said: Man, it's been a long time, because the last time I'd been to the Final Four was with him in '82. So we went from '82 to '91, and that was a long time for two old guys. I wasn't quite as old then and my hair was black then…,” Williams said.

His focus is obviously on success every season. North Carolina was a No. 4 seed last season, falling to Wisconsin in a regional semifinal.

Reaching the Final Four is never easy.

“And what we have to do is we just have to do it every year and coach and do the best you can, not get too caught up in what other people are saying,” Williams said. “Sometimes you have some breaks that really go your way, whether it's in recruiting or somebody getting hurt or not getting hurt. Guys developing. But I can assure you that when we started the year we weren't thinking about last year. And when I'm up here today I'm not thinking about last year at all. We're trying to do what we can with this team.”

Defending the 3-pointer

The Tar Heels will need to play a “complete game” to beat the Hoosiers, Williams emphasized.

Keeping the Hoosiers from having one of their efficient nights from the 3-point arc is priority No. 1.

“We've got to get out and try to cut their percentage down,” Williams said. “They're going to shoot a lot of 3s. Yogi gives them so much threat with his penetration and pinching that they're going to get some 3s. Troy [Williams] attacks the basket as well. Almost everybody on their team shoots — Thomas Bryant, I think, shot 14 of them himself.”

IU has become a sound defensive team as well and Williams has taken notice. The Hoosiers held Kentucky to 42-percent shooting to reach the round of 16.

“But defensively we know they do a good job of walling the guy inside. They trap when they want to. They jam when they want to,” Williams said. “So it's a two-prong thing. But you think about it this way: If you get to the Sweet 16, the other team is pretty doggone good. So you can't say, guys, if we do this, they can't beat us. That doesn't happen at this level.”

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