Today marks the 53rd birthday of the greatest basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan.
Before MJ won six titles with the Bulls, he was a stud college player at North Carolina, where he was a member of a national championship team as a freshman and the national player of the year as a junior.
During his three seasons with the Tar Heels, Jordan rarely ran into Big Ten teams, but he did play a couple on the sport’s biggest stage. Twice during the NCAA tournament — as a sophomore and as a junior — Jordan squared off against Big Ten schools.
In the Sweet Sixteen of the 1983 NCAA tournament, Jordan’s North Carolina squad met Ohio State at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The Buckeyes had a slight halftime lead, but the Heels blitzed past them in the second half, outscoring them 35-21 to cruise to a 64-51 win and advance to the Elite Eight. His Airness finished with a game-high 17 points. going 5-for-15 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free-throw line. Jordan also grabbed seven rebounds in the win. Joe Concheck was the high man for Ohio State, scoring 14 points and grabbing five rebounds.
After winning the national championship in 1982, the Heels didn’t repeat as champs, falling to Georgia in that Elite Eight game.
In the Sweet Sixteen of the 1984 NCAA tournament, Jordan and North Carolina faced off against Indiana in what was the final game of MJ’s collegiate career. The Hoosiers were victorious by a 72-68 score. In his player of the year season, Jordan averaged 19.6 points per game, but against Indiana he was limited to just 13 points. Sam Perkins actually led the Heels with 26 points, but it was Indiana’s Steve Alford who had the biggest performance, scoring 27 points, going 9-for-13 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line.
Like Jordan’s team the season before, the Hoosiers didn’t get much further, falling in their Elite Eight matchup against Virginia.
Over his three-year collegiate career, Jordan averaged 17.7 points per game. In two games against Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament, Jordan averaged 15 points per game.
But what about teams that were yet to join the Big Ten when Jordan and the Heels played them?
Being in the ACC, North Carolina matched up against Maryland twice on an annual basis, meaning MJ played the Terps six times. The Heels topped the Terps in all but one of the six regular-season meetings, the only win for Maryland coming in a 106-94 decision in College Park during Jordan’s sophomore season. Jordan averaged 18.7 points per game against the Terps in his career.
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Here are MJ's game-by-game scoring numbers in his career against Maryland (numbers found at basketball-reference.com):
|Date||Location||Final score||Jordan points|
|Jan. 6, 1982||College Park||66-50, North Carolina||12|
|Feb. 11, 1982||Chapel Hill||59-56, North Carolina||12|
|Jan. 12, 1983||Chapel Hill||72-71, North Carolina||17|
|Feb. 16, 1983||College Park||106-94, Maryland||25|
|Jan. 12, 1984||College Park||74-62, North Carolina||21|
|Feb. 19, 1984||Chapel Hill||78-63, North Carolina||25|
Jordan also saw Rutgers multiple times, playing non-conference regular-season games against the Scarlet Knights in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. North Carolina won those two games by a combined 145-105 score. In 1981, Jordan dropped 15 points on the Knights, but a year later he scored only eight points, matching his lowest scoring output of that season.
During the national-championship season of 1981-82, North Carolina played a non-conference regular-season game against Penn State, the Heels beating the Nittany Lions, 56-50, in overtime. Jordan scored only eight points in that game.