35th Anniversary of Greatest College Game Ever Played

It is undoubtedly fitting that NC State and Maryland will battle in this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball Tournament since today is the 35th anniversary of the unforgettable 1974 ACC Championship between the Wolfpack and the Terrapins in Greensboro Coliseum.

Today’s Charlotte Observer contained an article focusing on Tommy Burleson written by Ron Green, Jr. It is a nice piece that provides a little more insight into the Newland Needle.

Green has been kind about that 1974 Wolfpack, previously ranking that squad as the best team from the ACC to ever win a National Championship. (Link)

If you are now officially in nostalgia mode then you will also enjoy this one very much.

Then came in 1974 – and Raleigh became the epicenter of a story that would change college basketball. Duke was amazing in 1992, and North Carolina was phenomenal in ’82. But State was unique, in its talent and its time. The fading films and black and white photos still evoke an amazing team that remains the ACC’s best.

David Thompson, of course, was surreal. Everyone remembers his ability to leap and grab Monte Towe’s alley-oops, but when you see him on film again you’re stunned at how quickly and accurately he shoots. Give him a three-point line and a chance to dunk and he’d be unbelievable. He remains, hands down, the most talented player to grace an ACC court.

Thompson’s impact extended beyond the court. Polite and thoughtful, he was admired by whites still adjusting to watching blacks on their ACC teams. The love Thompson and his teammates shared was an important symbol in a society still learning to sit side by side.

UPDATE: come back later tonight, I will be posting some interview footage from that team that Jim Tacker did with Thompson, Towe and Burleson.

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General NCS Basketball Tradition

23 Responses to 35th Anniversary of Greatest College Game Ever Played

  1. Alpha Wolf 03/09/2009 at 3:05 PM #

    Many players have said that the 27-0 ’72/’73 team was better than the next year’s edition. They are the only team in NCAA history to go undefeated and to NOT win the national title.

    Folks who are much younger than me don’t really understand the pressure of that game — it was win or go home, as the loser got the NIT. Every ACCT game was met with a mixture of excitement and dread. Every basket cheered. Every whistle heart-stopping. Winning was pure joy and thought of losing made you want to toss your lunch.

    I remember that game like it was yesterday and I remember being 10 times tenser than anyone on the court could be possibly have been.

  2. tulsapack 03/09/2009 at 3:11 PM #

    ESPN Classic is showing this game at 5 ET today (about 40 minutes from this post), so set the DVR.

    quick edit: Looks like it’s a 90 minute edit of the game, so not sure what will get cut–still worth grabbing if you don’t already have a tape though.

  3. StateFans 03/09/2009 at 3:24 PM #

    ^ Thanks for sharing that!

  4. wufpup76 03/09/2009 at 4:04 PM #

    I’ve seen the ESPN Classic version and it is still very much worth watching, particularly for someone like me who wasn’t around to enjoy the game the first time around.

    Too bad this game took place before the era of big time television coverage of games … but that takes nothing away from the game and players (and coaches).

  5. beowolf 03/09/2009 at 4:58 PM #

    Ah, the past: the one thing the administration, the AD, the media, and the officials can’t take away from us.

  6. whitefang 03/09/2009 at 5:25 PM #

    I remember the ACCT games in those years. I literally had to leave the room at times because the tension was too much for my young heart! I would peek around the corner. My Grandmother (GRHS) was an absolute 100% NC State fan and she and I would watch together. She could really trash talk to the UNC AND USC fans in rest of our family. The UNC fans were much more humble during the Thompson years and the “Cocks in the family couldn’t stand State because of 1970 game.
    What happened to us???????

  7. Texpack 03/09/2009 at 5:28 PM #

    ^Folks who are much younger than me don’t really understand the pressure of that game — it was win or go home, as the loser got the NIT.

    The NIT wasn’t even an option for State that year, because we were hosting the Eastern Regional in Reynolds. That made us ineligible for the NIT. For the Wolfpack it was win or go home. I watched that game, like so many other State games with my Dad (BSME ’50). The speed of the game was impressive to me many years later when I watched the replay edition on ESPN Classic. This was a game played without the shot clock or the 3 point shot. The State team and the UMd team that played that night would both be number 1 seeds in this years tournament. Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas, Brad Davis, Mo Howard as a starting five NEVER won against State. The very next year was the first time the NCAA Tournament allowed at large teams from conferences to participate. I’m not so sure that watching State and Maryland play that night didn’t change some minds and help bring that about. It was, without question, the greatest college basketball game ever played.

  8. Sweet jumper 03/09/2009 at 5:48 PM #

    9th grade for me and the Pack ruled. My Dad (BS-CE ’56) had great tickets in Reynolds and for the tourney. That team was electric and that game was incredible. Tommy B. dominated Elmore, and Elmore has never gotten over it. I hate to hear him now say that he left Burleson open to double team Thompson that game. Bad move Lefty! I hate the new expanded ACC. The tournment and the league were the best when it was 8 teams and included South Carolina. I also thought that the 1973 team may have been better. Joe Cafferky was the 2 guard and Rick Holdt was a forward along with Thompson, Burleson and Towe. Those 2 years were great for a junior high school student who had to listen to all the Carowhina propaganda and Dean worship from his schoolmates up to that point. Total domination.

  9. blpack 03/09/2009 at 7:04 PM #

    I was too young to remember much from that season. I do remember my dad being so sick of UCLA and when State beat them it was better than the old Yankees of the fifties getting beat. Later I learned of this game and State’s legend grew. What a two year span of absolute greatness.

  10. MrPlywood 03/09/2009 at 7:20 PM #

    ^ “I hate to hear him now say that he left Burleson open to double team Thompson that game. Bad move Lefty!”

    You’d think that Lefty and Len would have discussed that strategy at halftime 🙂 And what I just looked up is that in the regular season game when Elmore claims he held TB down, Len was 3-9/7-12 for 13 points, with 9 rebounds. TB was 3-19/7-9 for 13 points and 10 rebounds. Not what I’d call “getting the best” of someone. Own it Elmore!

  11. john of sparta 03/09/2009 at 7:47 PM #

    greatest college game?
    well, the dukies will say the UK NCAA game.
    the tarholes will say the triple-overtime
    against Wilt the Stilt. as for me: it’s
    Pack vs. Terps. how time flies when you’re
    having fun. was the total time from tip to
    buzzer less than 2.5 hours?

  12. 61Packer 03/09/2009 at 8:12 PM #

    I had just gotten out of the Navy in March of ’74 and saw this game on tv. I was glued, like most ACC fans, to the tv late that afternoon, I think it was. If there was ever a winner-take-all college basketball game, this was Exhibit A. I remember how hard not only Wolfpack fans but most ACC fans, including Carolina fans, were rooting for the Pack. They were special. We knew that this was an opportunity that might never come along again in a lifetime- a team with David Thompson, the greatest basketball player we’d ever seen, the regionals coming to Reynolds the following week, and the national semifinals and finals coming to Greensboro the following week, if we could just get by Maryland ONE MORE TIME. Tom Burleson, the heart and soul of this team, delivered the game of his life, and when that final horn sounded, it was like a gigantic weight had been lifted from our shoulders. We knew two weeks ahead of the entire nation that night that UCLA’s run of 7 straight national championships was about to end- glory halleluyah, on Tobacco Road.

    I can’t imagine what would have happened had Maryland won that game, and I don’t want to think what would’ve happened. As bad as a Wolfpack loss to Houston would’ve been on that April night in ’83 in Albuquerque, a loss to Maryland this night to me would’ve been worse. The ’74 State team deserved better than sitting home during the NCAA playoffs for a second straight year. And I believe the ’74 Maryland team was also its best ever, better than the 2002 national champs. The Terps were so distraught they turned down an NIT bid afterward, and back then the NIT was a big deal. I’d like to think the Wolfpack would’ve done the same thing.

    The ESPN Classic replay was nice, but it can never re-create that feeling of RELIEF when State finally prevailed in overtime. What a game!

  13. Ed89 03/09/2009 at 8:26 PM #

    Beowolf, is that you? Where have you been?

  14. choppack1 03/09/2009 at 8:52 PM #

    I’ve seen this game a couple of times on ESPN classic. It’s amazing to watch how well this team passed and shot the ball…And David Thompson, wow.

  15. beowolf 03/09/2009 at 10:12 PM #

    Ed, I’m around, just don’t have that much to say.

  16. highstick 03/09/2009 at 10:28 PM #

    I remember those games like yesterday! I’d graduated from State in December, 1972 and worked in Raleigh until late 1975. Going to class and seeing those guys on campus was really special.

    If I remember correctly, the State-Maryland game led up to the Super Bowl.

    No one really gave a rip about the NIT and I’m not to this day. Heck, if you aren’t in the top 65, go back to school and study…I know, more games, more exposure, etc, but whatever! Going to the Dance as one of the 16 teams was really special. But, weird thing did happen in the ACC championship game that probably did leave the better team at home a few years.

    I’m just wondering when the Tarholes will lay claim to some bogus game that was better than the 74 ACC Championship game! It’s just a matter of time until they “rewrite some more history”!

  17. StateFans 03/10/2009 at 6:32 AM #

    These are great memories. Thanks to everyone for sharing

  18. wolfp83 03/10/2009 at 6:35 AM #

    This is for the next person to read this blog. Hopefully DT will see it. David what state needs is not coach lowe or any of the assistant coaches to have done this while recruiting but you. I dont know how much contact can be made if any to a possible recruit these days so I could be totally off base. But if John Wall was to speak to you who better could advise a young man about his future on what will be a great journey for him. There are alot of people that have surrounded him that say for his best interest,but we all know it’s for their own interest $$$$. You David thompson I know would direct him in the right path without wanting anthing in return. You won’t even have to ask him to come to N.C.STATE. After listening to you He would come on his own. I just had to put this on this
    blog as well as I did on the one talking about Wall.

  19. TheCOWDOG 03/10/2009 at 8:33 AM #

    Good God.

    5 of us from the baseball team got a room at the old College Inn to party for the game. Must have had 20 babes there by halftime, all on ignore if you can believe that!

    Hell, come to think of it, the girls had us on ignore too!

    Over the years one of the things that still amazes me is that despite the pace of the game, both teams used only 7 guys each.
    McMillan, Elmore, Lucas and Howard all logged 45 minutes.

    It was Ali v. Frazier. At no time did I ever think that a knockout punch would come. And it didn’t really, time ran out.

    Absolutely electric ’til the final Lucas shot.

    After the game, Lefty went to State’s team bus to express what he’d just witnessed and wished the boys luck for the NCAAT.

    Always felt it a shame that MD. couldn’t go on too. Felt the same the following year when we could not defend.

  20. redfred2 03/10/2009 at 4:04 PM #


    That was back before everyone, who isn’t even anyone, got the privilege to play in the post season. It wasn’t exactly fair, especially for one of the greatest ACC/collegiate teams ever assembled, but then again, the best team doesn’t always win it all even the totally watered down format of this day and time.

    I looked at a few more of those clips and saw Nate McMillian making play after play, on both ends of the court, against unc. DT is of course in league of his own, but when you step down from way up on that plateau, Nate McMillian is one of my all-time favorites. He was SOLID!!! in every aspect.

  21. TheCOWDOG 03/10/2009 at 4:46 PM #

    I think Chop brought this up regarding passing.

    No 3, no dunk, no shot clock. Overtime. 205 points. 14 players. 1 disqualification ( Owen Brown at around 3:00 in reg. )

    And here’s what I’m talkin’ about Chop and anybody else. 19 turnovers between both of ’em. 19!!?

    Let that sink in for a moment…..

  22. TheCOWDOG 03/10/2009 at 4:59 PM #

    Blew my thunder…29 turnovers.

    15 by State and 14 for the Terps. But ya get the point.

  23. redfred2 03/10/2009 at 6:15 PM #

    ^Yep COWDOG, but just look at what’s happened since, all of the progress that’s been made, and how much better the game is today. We are certainly lucky that folks are working hard to preserve a great game.

    I mean, just think, those guys from ’74 wouldn’t even need their midrange games anymore, just heave it, or dunk it, and forget about it.

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