N.C. State’s return to the Final Four stirs fond memories in New Mexico

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Apr. 1—An afterlife: is there or isn’t there? It’s a question for the ages.

For our limited purposes here, though, we’ll assume there is — because that means Jim Valvano and Lorenzo Charles, wherever their essences may be, are smiling.

Their North Carolina State Wolfpack has (or have, another question for the ages) made it back to the Final Four.

Remember? Of course you do, even if you weren’t there, say you were anyway, didn’t see it or weren’t even born yet. In 1983, at the Pit in Albuquerque, the Wolfpack shocked the heavily favored Houston Cougars — not to mention the world — to win it all.

I was there.

Pandemonium. After Charles slammed home Dereck Whittenberg’s air ball for the game-winner a tick before the final buzzer sounded, Valvano, NC State’s colorful coach, ran in circles trying to find someone to hug. Houston star center Akeem (later Hakeem) Olajuwon stood frozen in disbelief, then collapsed to the floor.

That was then. N.C. State hasn’t been back to the Final Four since. But, Sunday, led by burly big man D.J. Burns, the 11th-seeded Wolfpack dispatched Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke to win the NCAA Tournament’s South Region and advance to a national semifinal on Saturday against 7-foot-4 Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers.

Given that 11th seed, the odds of another national title for the Wolfpack are longer than those of the 1983 team, which entered the Big Dance that year as a No. 6 seed.

In no way does that make the ’83 Wolfpack’s championship run any less Cinderella-like.

After a patchy, 17-10 regular season that saw N.C. State enter the ACC Tournament as a No. 4 seed, the Wolfpack defeated Wake Forest (by a single point), North Carolina (by seven) and Virginia (by three) to win the tourney.

In the NCAA Tournament, Valvano’s Cardiac Pack beat Pepperdine by two, UNLV by one, Utah by 19, ACC rival Virginia by one to win the West Region and Georgia in the Pit by seven in advancing to the April 4 title game against Houston.

The Wolfpack was ascribed…

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Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/n-c-states-return-final-030100088.html

Author : Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

Publish date : 2024-04-02 03:01:00

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