2024 NC State Basketball: A Modern Comparison To The Legendary 1983 Squad

For the first time since 1983, the NC State basketball men’s team is in the Final Four.

11-seed NC State faces off against 1-seed Purdue for a trip to the national championship. The Wolfpack have been tabbed as this year’s team of destiny. They’ve rattled off nine straight wins to reach a point that not many could have predicted.

It’s an eerily similar run to what happened in 1983.

“I’m fully aware,” NC State guard Casey Morsell told ESPN. “We pay homage to that team and that group all throughout the year.”

There’s plenty of talk about how this team compares to the 1983 NC State program that won a title.

1983 NC State basketball’s path to the Final Four, NCAA title

The Wolfpack put together a solid regular season, boasting a 17-10 record heading into the ACC Tournament. Dereck Whittenburg led the team with 17.5 points per game, while Thurl Bailey (16.7 PPG, 7.7 rebounds), Sidney Lowe (11.3 PPG, 7.5 assists) and Ernie Myers (11.2 PPG) helped round out a balanced roster. Head coach Jim Valvano led the squad.

The Wolfpack won the ACC Tournament, rattling off wins over Wake Forest, Michael Jordan-led North Carolina and Virginia to earn a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

NC State beat Pepperdine in double overtime for its first win in March Madness. Then NC State fought off UNLV in the next round in a one-point win. A blowout win over Utah would secure a rematch with Virginia in the Elite Eight.

Virginia was loaded with talent. Basketball hall of famer Ralph Sampson, a seven-foot center, headlined the team, which also featured Othell Wilson and Rick Carlisle. NC State hung on to win that game 63-62.

In the Final Four, NC State took down Georgia 67-60 and earned a bid to the national championship.

Awaiting NC State was Houston. The Cougars had the best team in the tournament, boasting the country’s No. 1 ranking going into March Madness. Nicknamed Phi Slama Jama for its up-tempo, high-flying athleticism, Houston put together a team that lost just two games in the regular season. Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Michael Young and Larry Micheaux—four players that went on to have NBA careers—stood as the Wolfpack’s biggest challenge.

With less than a minute remaining in the title game, NC State had the ball. The Wolfpack worked the ball around the court, killing more than 40 seconds of game time by passing. Houston nearly came up with a steal at one point, but the ball eventually made its way to Whittenburg, who put up a long shot with four seconds left.

Whittenburg’s shot was short, but Lorenzo Charles jumped, grabbed the miss and threw down the go-ahead dunk as time expired. The game-winning slam gave NC State its second NCAA basketball championship in school history.

2024 NC State basketball’s path to the Final Four

NC State wasn’t even viewed as an NCAA Tournament team heading into the ACC Tournament. The only way the Wolfpack could make the Big Dance was to win their conference tournament, and that’s exactly what they did—five wins in five days.

NC State then took down Texas Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, beat fellow Cinderella Oakland in the second and then toppled Marquette in the Sweet 16.

In the Elite Eight, NC State matched up against Duke, which they defeated in the ACC Tournament. The Wolfpack dominated in the second half, winning 76-64.

Purdue poses a similar David-Goliath matchup that Virigina presented to the 1983 Wolfpack. This year’s Boilmakers have their own dominating seven-footer in Zach Edey, and they’ve hovered at the top of the AP Top 25 all season.

D.J. Burns blossomed into a fan favorite during this run. He’s a post player with solid touch, incredible footwork and a knack for passing. He doesn’t have the slightest frame (275 pounds) but he excels at the fundamentals.

D.J. Horne, Morsell, and Jayden Taylor have also played key roles for head coach Kevin Keatts’ team this season.

Difference in the games

One of the major differences in the 1983 tournament compared to 2024 is that there was no shot clock. And that’s a big reason why NC State was able to pull off the win.

Teams could dribble out minutes off the clock if successful. Valvano, though, employed the tactic of fouling when in the bonus. This would send the opposing team to the line and give NC State a chance at a possession. The team did this in each of its NCAA Tournament games, but the title game was the biggest example. NC State fouled Houston Alvin Franklin, sending the 63% shooting freshman to the line. He missed the front end of his one-and-one, giving NC State the final possession.

Additionally, the 3-point line wasn’t officially adopted by the NCAA until the 1986-87 season. Some conferences introduced the concept, but it wasn’t the same across the country. For instance, NC State’s ACC Conference had the 3-point line at 17 feet, nine inches. The Big Sky Conference, on the other hand, had its 3-point line 22 feet from the bucket. In turn, there was no 3-point line in the NCAA Tournament when NC State won in 1983.


Image Credit: Brand Wade / AP Images

About the Author

Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley's byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working as an editor and reporter for the Daily Iowan’s sports department.