We ran across a couple of recent news items that take us back to a happier time…
First, this article takes a pretty fascinating look some of the greatest recruiting classes in NCAA Basketball history by using John Calipari’s current recruiting class at Kentucky as a launching pad. Some interesting candidates are proposed in the piece, and our own 1971 recruiting
NORTH CAROLINA STATE, 1971
Coach Norm Sloan added the key pieces to the Wolfpack’s 1974 national championship squad by signing superstar David Thompson along with point guard Monte Towe and forward Tim Stoddard. The trio sat out the 1971-72 season – which marked the last season that freshmen were ineligible – before leading North Carolina State to glory two years later. Thompson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1975 draft, played nine years in the pro ball (NBA, ABA). Stoddard, a pitcher, enjoyed a successful major league baseball career.
That recruiting class obviously built the foundation for two of the greatest teams in ACC and National history – the undefeated 1972-1973 Wolfpack and the 1974 National Champions. Had that class also included Tom Burleson, who was one year ahead of the ‘71 class, then there is little doubt that the 1971 class would be one of the five greatest recruiting classes of all time.
In a highly related piece, the folks at Buster Sports have been ranking the ACC’s most ‘Legendary’ teams and have done an admirable job of sorting through an awful lot of great teams. But, Andrew Jones says that NC State’s 1974 National Champion team is the most legendary of them all:
David Thompson, the ACC’s all-time greatest player, was just one major part of the Pack’s success. Tom Burleson, a 7-foot-4 hook-shot artist, and 5-5 guard Monte Towe gave the Wolfpack the dimensions and skills it needed to win it all.
State had role players like Tim Stoddard, a 6-8 forward who later became the only player to ever win a national championship in basketball and the World Series (with the Baltimore orioles in 1983) in baseball.
Phil Spence, Mo Rivers and other memorable names will forever induce goose bumps among those in Wolfpack Nation, as they should. They remain, 35 years later, the greatest team in ACC history.
A #26 ranking of that squad’s most legendary of runs is grossly disproportionately low when compared to their impact on the entire conference and the landscape of all of televised college basketball and ‘March Madness’. I propose the following quote from Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly on SI’s 50 Years of the Final Four Television Special as support for my perspective:
“To me, 1983 is when the Final Four became the greatest single sporting event in America.”
I can promise you that this types of statements are not being said about most of the supposed 25 more legendary teams out there.
The Holes are on the Top 30 list (I won’t count the tie for 31st) a whopping 11 times, and Duke 7 times. Of those 18 combined appearances, 9 came after NC State decided to de-emphasize its basketball program in 1990. In fact, through 1990, UNC is represented 6 times, NC State 4, and Duke 3. After 1990, UNC is represented 5 times, Duke 4, and NC State 0.