1974 NC State – ACC’s All-Time Best Hoops Squad (and more glory years items)

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


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.

The Wolfpack also checks in at #5 (1973), #26 (1983), and #28 (1955). The only NC State-related complaint that may be justified is the legendary status of the 1983 National Championship team.

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.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

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22 Responses to 1974 NC State – ACC’s All-Time Best Hoops Squad (and more glory years items)

  1. PackerInRussia 06/03/2009 at 3:09 PM #

    For those who know much more about NC State history than I, what was the difference between the ’73 and ’74 team (i.e. what makes ’74 #1 and ’73 #5)? I know that one won a national championship, but the other was undefeated, right (and could have done who knows what if not for being on probation)? Did they improve that drastically from ’73 to ’74 or was there a key player or two missing from ’73 or was it just that the ’74 team was able to show how good they were by playing in the NCAA tournament and winning a national championship?

    “a 7-foot-4 hook-shot artist”

    They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

  2. BJD95 06/03/2009 at 3:14 PM #

    I think it’s a matter of the first four on the list being everybody’s no-brainer four best NCAA championship teams. Thus, #5 is the first logical place to insert the 1973 team ahead of other, less memorable championship squads.

    IMHO, a fair compromise ranking.

  3. Trout 06/03/2009 at 3:17 PM #

    The ’74 team won the NCAA title, that’s a pretty big difference. Plus, they played in and won what is unanimously considered the greatest ACC game ever (’74 ACC title game against Maryland), and they ended the UCLA dynasty. The ’73 team was a great team, but I think the ’74 team was better. ’73 had Holdt and Cafferky, they were replaced by Rivers and Spence, who were much more athletic. Plus Thompson, Towe and Burleson was all another year better.

    What is shocking about that list is the 1983 Wolfpack at #26. They have the 1983 UVA team at #21. That’s a team NC State beat in the ACC title game and the NCAA West Regional Final. The ACC has won 11 NCAA titles in basketball since it was formed (5 by UNC, 3 by Duke, 2 by NC State and 1 by Maryland). Surely the 1983 NCAA Champs deserve better than a #26 ranking.

  4. old13 06/03/2009 at 3:34 PM #

    The 1973 team was 27-0 but was banned from the NCAAs due to probation. It would have been interesting to have had them compete in the NCAAs to see if they could have remained undefeated and, thus, provided some good debates today.

  5. howlie 06/03/2009 at 3:43 PM #

    “9 came after NC State decided to de-emphasize its basketball program in 1990.”


  6. BJD95 06/03/2009 at 3:54 PM #

    ^ Playing with the numbers a bit more:

    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.

  7. Sw0rdf1sh 06/03/2009 at 6:21 PM #

    I remember reading about that Old13. A shame to be banned and dominating at 27-0.

    I was born in 71, so everything I know I have watched on tape or read in a book. At least I have been alive for the glory years, although my satisfaction level as part of the lunatic fringe has yet to be quenched.

    I do have a good memory of watching the 83 game…hope I can relive that in my adult life!

  8. old13 06/03/2009 at 6:33 PM #

    ^ The reason for the 1973 banning comes under the old UNX Conspiracy Theory! 🙂

  9. 61Packer 06/03/2009 at 7:04 PM #

    I know I’ll be blasted for this, but I still think the 1992 Duke team was the best ACC team I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been watching the ACC since the mid-1950s. 1992 Duke didn’t didn’t have a David Thompson, college basketball’s greatest player of all-time, but they did have the ACC’s most accomplished college player ever besides Thompson in Christian Laettner. Duke was number 1 in every weekly poll of the ’91-’92 season and won it all with a deep and talented team, coming off the ’91 national title as mentally tough as any team I ever saw since the 1968, 1969 and 1973 UCLA teams.

    There is no doubt that most non-Tar Heel ACC fans fan would rank the ’74 and ’92 State and Duke teams as our league’s best ever. The ’74 team would steamroll the Dukies if it were a popularity contest, but I still think Duke would’ve won on the court.

  10. Sw0rdf1sh 06/03/2009 at 9:47 PM #

    That Kentucky game was good, I will give them that.

    ….and that is all.

  11. Greywolf 06/03/2009 at 10:15 PM #

    “I still think Duke would’ve won on the court.”

    (State ’74 vs 92 Duke). That’s what everyone thought about UCLA, too. Maryland ’74 could have beaten Duke ’92.

  12. highstick 06/03/2009 at 10:24 PM #

    I’ve always wondered about the 73 and 74 teams. The 73 team was very very good and I’m not sure that Spence and Rivers were better than Cafferky and Holdt. I’d at least take Cafferky over Rivers. But the point of that extra year of maturity is very valid. But, I still think they would have given UCLA a tough contest in 73.

    Was there to observe it all personally although I’d graduated at that point, but was still in Raleigh.

    If you can find the clip, watch Cafferky dunk on the last play in the ACC tournament if you doubt his athleticism. Yep, white boys can dunk~~

  13. Trout 06/04/2009 at 7:43 AM #

    ^ One thing, Sloan made excellent choice and use of Juco transfers. Cafferky was a Juco, as was Mo Rivers and Phil Spence. Tiny Pinder was a later Juco transfer that was a major contributor.

    There isnt much footage of the ’73 team as compared to the ’74 team, so that hurts the ’73 team in terms of recognition, IMO.

    Shame Dean had to “turn NC State in” over a simple pick-up game in Carmichael. And the head of the NCAA infraction committee at the time was Bill Guthridges’ former college roommate.

    Only at NC State…………

  14. NCMike 06/04/2009 at 7:51 AM #

    “9 came after NC State decided to de-emphasize its basketball program in 1990.”

    LMAO…now that’s funny stuff.

  15. Sweet jumper 06/04/2009 at 8:06 AM #

    ’73 and ’74 teams were both special. Cafferky vs. Rivers is a draw. Cafferky was a better offensive player and playmaker while River was a premier defender and ran the floor like a cheetah. Holdt vs. Stoddard in the starting lineup is also a draw. Both were excellent role players with great team-first attitudes. Holdt vs. Spence definitely goes to Spence. Spence was a very strong rebounder and interior defender. Overall, the ’74 team was deeper and more experienced and therefore probably better, but both teams were national championship caliber. I wish ’73 team could have played UCLA. The dynasty might have ended a year earlier. No way Walton goes 21 of 22 from the field against us that year. I do remember Cafferky’s dunk after the buzzer in ’73 ACC title game against MD. Good stuff. Cafferky was a counsellor that summer at Norm Sloan’s BBall camp. He was a great guy who related well with us kids. He had a very high BBall IQ.

  16. Trout 06/04/2009 at 9:14 AM #

    Since we are talking about Joe Cafferky, interesting story:


    Read the comments. Seem Cafferky played ball overseas in Sweden. Married a woman from there and stayed. His son wanted to play high school ball in the US (see above story)

  17. rtpack24 06/04/2009 at 10:08 AM #

    Most people that saw both 73 and 74 teams will tell you that the 73 team was probably the better team. 73 team was banned because of the recruiting (alledged) violations of David Thompson. What is interesting is Duke was also sanctioned for recruiting violations involving David. 73 and 74 were also the only team to go back to back undefeated in regular season and ACC tourney play. Back then NC State was not only great, they dominated!

  18. TheCOWDOG 06/04/2009 at 11:24 AM #

    I’m probably one of the few who believes that the “73 team would have beaten the ’74 team were such a match-up possible.

    Joe Cool was one of the most understated off guards you’d ever have the pleasure of watching.

    Everyone seems to forget Steve Nuce, who had a bigger role in ’73 than ’74 with the addition of Spence.

    Altough I’m not real big on stat comparisons, I find this one interesting if only because UNC and Maryland remained national powerhouses thru this time frame.

    Ave margin of victory ( State played each 3 times each yr. )

    UMd. 1973 5.67 pts.
    1974 4.33 pts.

    UNC 1973 4.67 pts.
    1974 4.0 pts.

    One of you guys out there must be able to run a computer generated fantasy game between the two squads.

    Stats can be found here:


    My money is on ’73.

  19. Trout 06/04/2009 at 12:56 PM #

    ^ I don’t think margin of victory between teams of different years is a good stat to measure one team against another. For example, the 1973 MD team had 1 2nd team AA (McMillen). The 74 team had 3 2nd team AAs (Lucas, McMillen and Elmore). The 73 MD team went 23-7, 7-5 in the ACC and was 10/8 in the 2 polls. The ’74 MD team went 23-5, was 9-3 in the ACC and 4/4 in the 2 polls. I gotta think ’74 MD was better than ’73 MD, so I can see the margin of victory being smaller.

  20. TheCOWDOG 06/04/2009 at 1:36 PM #

    Trout, I said it was interesting…also, Lucas and Elmore were no better persay in ’74 than they were in ’73. I saw them play alot and could have just as easily been AA in ’73 as ’74.

    There just wasn’t much transition or difference between teams of ’73 and’74 for both of State’s chief competition.

    However, if State’s 74 team was an improvement over 73 perhaps the margin should have increased or stayed equal to?

    I agree the stat comparison is flimsy at best, but never the less, interesting.

  21. whitefang 06/04/2009 at 6:15 PM #

    Often I hear or read about NC State fans being “different” or “unrealistic”, that we can’t expect to compete with blue teams, that we ran off a good coach that took us to blah, blah, blah, etc etc… This article is why we ARE different – at least for a little while longer. See us old f—ers remember ’73 & ’74 not to mention ’83 and a fast shrinking few of us the earlier Case years. But just a few more years and they will be rid of all of us with memories of when we meant something in the world of college basketball. Then an occasional top third of the ACC finish and a tourney bid every few years will be awesome to the “new” NC State fan they are currently growing. We’ll be “normal” fans then.


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