Reusse: N.C. State’s Final Four run jars loose fond memories of ’83


The Barn is a fine nickname for the Gophers’ Williams Arena, although the decline of attendance in the 21st century has often given it a hint of an abandoned farm structure outside Kinbrae, Minn.

Perhaps the most accurate description for an arena hosting a major college basketball team is The Pit, the home of the New Mexico Lobos in Albuquerque.

That is where Richard Pitino landed immediately after being fired as Gophers coach in March 2021. The Lobos always draw well — 13,000 a game this season — and Pitino’s club was an upset winner of the Mountain West tournament, then was crushed 77-56 by Clemson in its NCAA tournament opener.

The Pit, built into a 37-foot hole in a mesa, opened in 1966. The roof was built first, and then arena construction started. Street level was 45 rows above the court.

I have a sentimental attachment to the place for one reason: It was home to an all-time favorite sporting event I had a chance to cover, that being the 1983 men’s Final Four.

That event is receiving much mention this week with North Carolina State making its first appearance in a Final Four since then.

No team has ever previously reached the Final Four with 14 losses, as have the current Wolfpack, needing to win nine postseason games (five in five days in the ACC tournament) to get there.

Similar to Wolfpack ’83 for sure, but here’s the difference:

Men’s college hoops were in a golden age in the ’80s, and Jim Valvano’s Wolfpack helped make it so with the upset run to that 1983 title.

What we have now is anyone’s guess: Improbable as this N.C. State success is, the top six players are transfers. And if unfamiliarity with these teams won’t drive you crazy, the refs running over to the scorer’s table to spend four minutes deciding whether there are 4.2 or 4.4 seconds remaining on the clock will.

The Pit four decades ago … N.C. State actually had familiar players: Thurl Bailey (terrific) and Lorenzo Charles up front, seniors Dereck Whittenburg and Sidney Lowe in the backcourt.

N.C. State…

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Author : Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Publish date : 2024-04-03 09:59:00

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