The NC State men's basketball team from 1983 is one of the most famous and memorable teams ever known. A genuine underdog that went on to take down No. 1 Houston and shock the country into a nickname that stuck forever.
Let's talk about the Cardiac Pack.
With legendary coach Jim Valvano at the helm and players Dereck Whittenburg, Thurl Bailey, and Sidney Lowe on the roster, NC State was ranked 19th in the country heading into conference play. In their first conference game of the year, Wittenburg went down with a broken foot, and in a spiral of losses after that, the team was 17-10 heading into the ACC Tourney.
One must remember that in '83, the NCAA Tournament only had 52 teams in the field, so the only way NC State could get into the tournament was to win the ACC. In true Cardiac Pack fashion, they beat Wake Forest 71-70 in the first round, North Carolina in OT in the second round, and Virginia by three in the Championship game.
They were then awarded a 6-seed in the NCAA tournament. Here's how the tourney played out:
Round 1: NC State defeats #11 Pepperdine 69-67 after trailing late in the game, forcing overtime, and winning in a second overtime.
Round 2: NC State comes back from 12 down in the second half to upset #3 UNLV, with Thurl Bailey scoring 17 of his 25 points in the final 11 minutes. He also had a game-winning rebound and putback in the final seconds.
Regional Semifinal: NC State 75-56 wins against #10 seed Utah. Finally an easy game.
Regional Final: NC State wins 63-62 against Virginia after being down seven with seven minutes to go.
Final Four: NC State defeats Georgia 67-60 to advance to the national championship. Seven points may have been a "large" margin given their history, but the pressure of a Final Four game was enough.
Heading into the championship game, Coach Valvano told everyone that would listen that his NC State team would be overwhelmed by the matchup. The Houston team they were facing, led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, was a high-flying team that dunked so much they had their own nickname: Phi Slamma Jamma.
Since there was no shot clock in 1983, Valvano also said his team would hold the ball as long as possible to slow Houston down.
Everyone took the bait except NC State.
NC State led 33-25 at halftime, but Houston came out on a 17-2 run to start the second half. With 44 seconds remaining and the game tied at 52, NC State held the ball for one final shot.
Houston nearly stole the ball, resulting in a wild shot from Whittenburg that ended in a Lorenzo Charles dunk at the buzzer to win NC State the national title.
Cue the famous moment of Jim Valvano running all over the court.
For our most recent NC State release, we carefully recreated Sports Illustrated's iconic April 11, 1983 cover image after NC State men's basketball won its second national title. The cover photo captured Dereck Whittenburg, Thurl Bailey, Sidney Lowe, and their well-earned prize. Under Jim Valvano, the Cardiac Pack's "survive and advance" mentality carried the Team of Destiny to unexpected heights.
The 1983 national championship remains one of the most iconic moments in college basketball history, and the Cardiac Pack will always be remembered as such.
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