63 Greatest Games in NCAA Tournament History

Each March, the air becomes full of lists, “look backs” and NCAA nostalgia. Last year we highlighted that NC State dominates one writer’s All-Time Comeback List. This year, we add to the mix NC State’s presence in the 63 Greatest Tournament Games ever played with 3 of the top 34 games.

One game that I believe deserves consideration when having these conversations and almost all media outlets forget was the Wolfpack’s 1989 double overtime thrilling win over Iowa in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament. I believe that the controversy in the following game vs Georgetown ultimately commands so much attention that fans forget Rodney Monroe’s incredible performance in the Pack’s 102-96 win vs the Hawkeyes.

3. 1983 Championship Game (North Carolina State 54, Houston 52)
Sophomore forward Lorenzo Charles scored only four points, but two of them came when he converted guard Dereck Whittenburg’s off-line desperation shot from well beyond the top of the free-throw circle into a decisive dunk as North Carolina State upset heavily-favored Houston. The Cougars, featuring Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, entered the final with a 26-game winning streak.

13. 1974 National Semifinals (North Carolina State 80, UCLA 77 in 2OT)
The final in N.C. State’s home state at Greensboro was anticlimatic after the Wolfpack avenged an 18-point loss to UCLA earlier in the season on a neutral court by ending the Bruins’ 38-game playoff winning streak. N.C. State erased an 11-point deficit midway through the second half and a seven-point deficit in the second extra session behind David Thompson’s 28 points and 10 rebounds to halt UCLA’s string of seven consecutive NCAA championships.

34. 1983 West Regional First Round (N.C. State 69, Pepperdine 67 in 2OT)
NCAA champion-to-be N.C. State defeated Pepperdine in two extra sessions after trailing by six points with 24 seconds remaining in regulation.

Kentucky ’54 (25-0)–Declined bid after being put on probation the previous season.

Maryland ’74 (23-5)–Len Elmore, John Lucas and Tom McMillen certainly could have cut the nets down if more than one team from a conference was allowed to participate in the tourney.

N.C. State ’73 (27-0)–The Wolfpack, led by David Thompson, defeated league NCAA representative Maryland a total of three times while on probation.

Southern California ’71 (24-2)–Outstanding club unfortunately had to play in the shadows of mighty UCLA.

La Salle ’69 (23-1)–Many fans outside the East might not remember the probation-bound Explorers, led by Ken Durrett and Larry Cannon, but they were tough as nails.

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10 Responses to 63 Greatest Games in NCAA Tournament History

  1. topOtheorder 03/17/2006 at 9:58 AM #

    I know I am INCREDIBLY biased, but…

    It always burns me when I see a list that has Laetner’s shot/game ahead of Lorenzo’s shot/game. To me, the fact that our game was for all the marbles, a CHAMPIONSHIP, trumps a Regional Final everytime. Plus, WE “won it on a dunk” over a powerhouse with 2 Top 50 players of all time. Duke was the powerhouse, and they beat a team of leftover scrubs (except for Mashburn). If it was reversed and the scrubs had beaten Duke on a buzzer beater, that would be a lot closer to State’s miracle…but it wasn’t that way and it wasn’t for a championship.

    I have less of a problem with Villanova over Georgetown, except that WE won on a last second dunk after a great comeback with Billy Packer’s “oh, they won it…on the dunk” forever etched in everyone’s mind, we did it first (I wonder if Rollie used us as inspiration for his troops), and we set the world ablaze with Jimmy V’s run looking for someone to hug and his “I gotta go cut some nets down” to Brent Musberger. Villanova played a great game, especially in the second half, but I don’t see how it quite compares except for being a second David vs Goliath.

  2. Trout 03/17/2006 at 10:05 AM #

    ^ Agree 100%

  3. zeke 03/17/2006 at 11:15 AM #

    Have always felt the same way. I think that there is a premium applied to the more recent nature of Laettner

  4. Texpack 03/17/2006 at 11:37 AM #

    I still remember watching the Pepperdine game in the Owen Underground. Steve Grote was the color comentator on the telecast and made some comment about a sad end to a brilliant career when Sidney Lowe fouled out of the game at the end of regulation. The Cozell rebound/follow shot on Whit’s missed free throw to force OT, I believe, still ranks up there with the Lorenzo Charles dunk for me. The UCLA game was also incredible. People today can’t appreciate the stranglehold that UCLA had on the NCAA Tournament for a decade. The small field and guarantee of weak west coast opponents in the regionals was a big help, but the myth was as much of an opponent as the players.

  5. topOtheorder 03/17/2006 at 12:07 PM #


    That Pepperdine game nearly killed me…We definitely don’t get to Lo without Co…

  6. Trout 03/17/2006 at 3:17 PM #

    Just noticed one thing under the “5 Best Teams To Not Make The Tournament”

    “Maryland ‘74 (23-5)–Len Elmore, John Lucas and Tom McMillen certainly could have cut the nets down if more than one team from a conference was allowed to participate in the tourney”

    Whoa now. That 74 MD team was beaten 3 times by NC State.

  7. tractor57 07/21/2006 at 4:31 PM #

    The best games I ever saw (this was on TV) were the ’74 ACC championship against Maryland and the ’74 NCAA semi final against UCLA. The ’83 run comes close but the ’74 exploits were beautiful. I just missed seeing that era live as I was a freshman in ’75.
    In my view the two best teams in ’74 were State and Maryland. I would put UCLA as third (take that Bill Walton – he still whines today that they should have beaten State – shoulda, coulda, woulda)

  8. redfred2 07/25/2006 at 5:29 PM #

    tractor57, Too much water under the bridge.

    But you are exactly right!!!! Taken in context with all of the talent throughout the country and the ACC at that time, the night in, night out quality of play, those two games were incredible and I would rate them as the best I ever witnessed and the two best ever in all my years. ’83’s run was full of unbelievable surprises from start to finish. But the tension and pressure that was so overwhelmingly evident every time the Wolpack took the court in ’73 and ’74 is something I have never known since. To be undoutably the best while constantly facing some of the greatest teams in the history of college basketball, then somehow finding ways to pull it together game after game after game was a totally different feeling all together.

    That was a TEAM, with a most outrageously talented superstar team player ever, surrounded by a very capable supporting cast. All of them together somehow calmly and cooly figured a way to get it done and under the most intense and pressure packed situations of any I have ever seen.

    Not discounting ’83, it was absolutely incredible. But to be expected from day one and somehow find a way to deliver even when opponents are playing well beyond their normal talent levels, is something that I will always cherish and always be totally thankful that I was around to witness.

    I’ve tried too many times, but words cannot ever discribe that feeling.

  9. redfred2 07/25/2006 at 9:49 PM #

    The UCLA game at #13????? It grew and grew from the year before and there has never been as much as build up and anticipation about a clash of the ultimate superpowers in college basketball as there was for that one game. Everyone was plastered to a TV set an hour before the game even started. If you didn’t witness it on your own don’t believe that #13 piece of tripe reported above.

    For State to battle and muster a comeback on the reigning dynasty and 7 times consecutive nat’l champs with Bill Walton after being down by 11 in the second half, then force it into overtime, play to a draw only to find themselves down by seven again, and come back once more eventually winning in the second overtime. That game had the most hype of any tournament or NCAA championship game ever, and it blew away all the hype, tenfold, and delivered more than anyone could ever have hoped for.

    I know it was different from the UCLA perspective but even Bill Walton said similar when speaking in retrospect of the magnitude of that ’74 semi-final game. He spoke about it humbly from a brutally honest perspective and his pride was totally evident, even on the losing end, just for being a major part and having the opportunity to participate in that one game.

  10. Glen Sudhop54 04/03/2007 at 9:11 PM #

    God knows I love the Pack, I have been with them since 1973. I fully agree with the assessment of the 1974 Maryland Terrapins being one of the best teams never to make the dance. In fact , that team was one of the best of all times. They may have been better as a team than State or UCLA. The big difference was that State had David Thompson and UCLA had Bill Walton. Most bozos think UNC-Duke when talking ACC, the first thing that comes to mind for me is State-Maryland.

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