Will History Repeat? NC State in the 1983 Final Four

2024 Final Four appearance recalls improbable run to 1983 title.

In 1983 the North Carolina State Wolfpack, against all odds, claimed the NCAA Basketball Championship in what would become one of the most memorable underdog stories in sports history.

The road to the championship was anything but smooth for the Wolfpack. Coached by the legendary Jim Valvano, the team entered the tournament as a fifth seed, with few expecting them to make a deep run. Their journey began with a hard-fought victory over Pepperdine in the opening round. From there, they faced formidable opponents, each game presenting its own set of challenges. Yet, led by a roster of talented players and guided by Valvano’s strategic brilliance, the Wolfpack continued to defy expectations, stringing together wins and advancing through the tournament bracket.

Similar to 2024, the Wolfpack had to run the table in the ACC tournament, just to qualify for the NCAA. They did that with wins over Wake Forest, and overtime victory against fifth-ranked North Carolina, and an 81-78 with over number two Virginia.

With each passing game, the stakes grew higher, and the competition tougher. Yet, led by a roster of talented players including Dereck Whittenburg, Lorenzo Charles, and Sidney Lowe, the Wolfpack continued to string together victories, drawing in more fans and shocking the basketball world with their tenacity.

The first round games were played at Gill Coliseum on Oregon State’s campus in Corvallis, where the Pack defeated Pepperdine and UNLV. Next, they moved to Salt Lake City where NC State disposed of Utah and in a rematch, the Cavaliers by one point.

As the incredible run carried on, students and fans back at the campus in Raleigh, NC held rallies as bonfires not knowing if each game was the last in this dramatic string of games.

That win got them to the Final Four in Albuquerque were unlikely heroes beat Georgia to make it to the the NCAA Championship game against the heavily favored Houston Cougars, led by the dominant presence of Hakeem Olajuwon. With the score tied and time running out, Dereck Whittenburg launched a desperation shot from beyond the arc—a moment frozen in time, with the hopes and dreams of an entire fanbase hanging in the balance. As the ball sailed through the air, it appeared destined to fall short. But fate intervened in the form of Lorenzo Charles, whose thunderous dunk at the buzzer secured a miraculous 54-52 victory for the Wolfpack, catapulting them to NCAA glory and etching their names in the annals of sports history.

NC State faces an equally daunting task in 2024 as they will play Purdue. Wolfpack stars DJ Horne and DJ Burns will have their toughest test so far against player-of-year Zach Edey. Their counterparts forty-one years ago had to play Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Can history repeat itself?

ACC Championship Game: North Carolina State 81- Virginia 78

NCAA Tournament Games: First Round: North Carolina State 69- Pepperdine 67

Second round: North Carolina State 71 – UNLV 70

Sweet Sixteen: North Carolina State 75 – Utah 56

Elite Eight: North Carolina State 63 – Virginia: 62

Final Four: North Carolina State 67 – Georgia 60

Championship Game: North Carolina State 54 – Houston 52

Watch the final seconds of the 1983 Championship game play out.