Best Final Four Games Ever Start With NC State

Brett Friedlander

Today was supposed to be semifinal Saturday at the Final Four, one of the most exciting and anticipated days on the college basketball calendar.

But instead gathering 71,000 strong at Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Stadium as two teams earn a date in Monday's championship, we're all forced to sit at home, six feet apart, and reminisce about games from year's gone by.

To help stir our memories, Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde has looked back into the past to pick the 12 best national semifinal and title games of all-time.

It's a list you're going to like a lot, Wolfpack Nation, because NC State heads the list in both categories. 

Forde's No. 1 semifinal ever was the Wolfpack's double-overtime victory against UCLA in 1974, the game that ended the Bruins' streak of seven consecutive national championships and catapulted David "Skywalker" Thompson to legendary status. 

His No. 1 championship game came nine years later, on April 4, 1983, the day Jim Valvano, Lorenzo Charles, Derek Whittenburg and the Cardiac Pack shocked the world by beating Houston in what is still considered the greatest upset in NCAA Final history.

Here's what Forde had to say about the two games:

Best Semifinals

North Carolina State 80, UCLA 77 (2OT), 1974

The game that decided the ’74 national championship, and ended the Bruins’ seven-year title run. In a clash of two of the greatest talents in college basketball history, the Wolfpack’s David Thompson was the winner and Bill Walton wound up on the losing side for one of the very few times. The skywalking Thompson stood 6-foot-4, but actually blocked a pair of shots by the 6-11 Walton. NC State won an anticlimactic championship game over Marquette two days later.

Best Finals

North Carolina State 54, Houston 52, 1983

Give this one the slight edge over Villanova-North Carolina for two reasons: the upset was enormous, foreseen by very few; and the stunning nature of the winning basket. College basketball history is rife with big jump shots for the win, but Lorenzo Charles dunking an airball at the buzzer remains unique. The number of narrow escapes the Wolfpack made—starting in the ACC tournament—only adds to the storyline. All that said, this was not exalted basketball. Guy Lewis won a lot of games, but letting Clyde Drexler get four fouls in the first half is one of the worst in-game blunders ever.

Here's the link to the entire list of all 12 great semifinals and championship games.