College Hoops

NC State looks to add to its rich basketball history at another Final Four

NC State looks to add to its rich basketball history at another Final Four

GLENDALE, AZ. — A big Final Four welcome to the underdog with a fascinating past. Welcome to the program with the former coach who is the reason champions cut down nets, and the once-upon-a-time superstar renowned in the NBA for his leaping ability but had only one dunk in college — and that didn’t count — and the center whose height was exaggerated to get more publicity.

Welcome to the program that once produced the winner of the greatest conference tournament championship game in history, the insurgent who brought down the most powerful college basketball dynasty of all-time, the Cinderella who once lived a March the likes of which the NCAA tournament had never seen.

Welcome to NC State.

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It’s more than 2,000 miles from the campus in Raleigh to State Farm Stadium, and three weeks ago, when the Wolfpack were 17-14 and losers of seven of nine games, it seemed a lot further than that. But nobody does March magic better than NC State. The Wolfpack are here with more losses than any Final Four team has ever carried and all it took was winning five ACC tournament games in five days — including a banker at the buzzer to stay alive against Virginia — and then four pressurized NCAA tournament tests.

“What is it, nine now? coach Kevin Keatts wondered the other day. “Nine elimination games or you go home.”

Indeed. And with each passing surprise, the party gets louder for a team that has forgotten how to lose. “I’ve learned more new rap songs than I ever thought I could imagine,” Keatts said of all those post-upset celebrations. “But we mix it up now. We play a lot of gospel music too, which they scream just as loud when they do that part, of which I’m glad that they know those songs.”

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Amen. But then, something mystical is often going on around this program, which started in 1911 with a 33-6 loss to Wake Forest. There are a lot of past faces who did the darndest things, their legacies now tagging along with the current Wolfpack.

This is for Everett Case, the high school coach from Indiana who showed up in Raleigh in the 1940s and turned NC State into power. By 1947, fire officials had to postpone a game with North Carolina because fans were breaking down bathroom windows and hiding in the basement to get in an already packed gym. Later that year, the Wolfpack won the Southern Conference…

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