Now that March has rolled around, hardly a day goes by without a favorite memory of NC State’s 1983 national championship run popping up online or in the newspaper. But what is sometimes forgotten is that Jim Valvano’s squad had to win another tournament before even sniffing the NCAAs.
And it was on this day 30 years ago that the Wolfpack beat the heavily favored Virginia Cavaliers, 81-78, to capture its ninth ACC tournament title and an automatic berth in the NCAAs. The Cavs were ranked second nationally at the time.
NC State struggled with Virginia big-man Ralph Sampson, who poured in 24 points. But the Wolfpack had an answer in Thurl Bailey, who dropped 24 points on the Cavs. Sidney Lowe had 18 points in the win and earned the Everett Case Award as the tournament’s MVP.
The victory marked the end of a losing streak to the University of Virginia for the Pack and something much worse for the Cavs’ center. “For the Pack it was a dream come true as it stopped a seven-game UVa winning streak over State,” read an article in the Technician. “For Virginia and Ralph Sampson, it was the last hurrah fallen short as Sampson completed his fourth year at Virginia without an ACC title.”
But of greater importance was the NCAA tournament berth that the win secured for the Pack, since it gave way to one of the most magical runs by any team in the big tourney. But no one, including Valvano, felt certain a national title would come to Raleigh.
“As far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned, I am concerned because we play a different style from what will be played in the tournament,” Valvano said after the ACC title win. “We are used to using the three-point shot quite a bit and have a good 30-second defense. We will have to adjust our defensive and offensive concepts this week in our preparation.”
Adjust they did.