The Cardiac Pack is back

Published 3:44 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

If Beaufort County has a reddish hue to it this week, it’s probably because of all the North Carolina State Wolfpack fans proudly wearing their gear in public.

What an amazing run its been for the Pack after a mediocre regular season that put seventh-year head coach Kevin Keatts squarely in the line of getting fired.

N.C. State needed to pull off the highly improbable task of winning five games in five days in the ACC tournament to advance to the big dance, and they did, seemingly faster than D.J. Burns can wolf down an extra- large five topping pizza.

The Pack caught fire just in time to beat Louisville, Syracuse, Duke, Virginia and the mighty Tar Heels to keep their season alive.

Nobody gave them much of a chance as an 11 seed, but here they are in the third Final Four in program history after wins over Texas Tech, Oakland, Marquette and Duke after being a solid underdog every time.

In case you don’t recall, they came home with a national championship both times. They knocked off seven (!) time defending champ UCLA in the semi-finals, then took down Marquette for the 1974 title,

1983 was the year of the Cardiac Pack, who defeated Houston, aka, Phi Slama Jama, 54-52 on Lorenzo Charles’ put-back of Dereck Whittenburg’s airball as time expired for their second championship. It’s been a long draught.

Long-suffering Pack fans were eager to discuss their team when I asked.

“I got some Mardi Gras-type beads from the Rotary 5K race and pub crawl the night they beat Carolina for the ACC title and I’ve worn them ever since,” Washington resident Julie Edwards said. “I was a sophomore in high school when they won in ’83 and I remember watching it from Ocracoke with my family. My brother and I have been State fans our whole lives and it’s been great to watch them win. I love D.J. Burns’ personality and am optimistic about their chances in the Final Four.”

If the Pack wins title number three, they will earn it. 7’4 probable National Player of the Year Zach Edey and Purdue are up next Saturday, followed (probably) by top overall seed UConn in the championship game Monday.

Pungo Christian Academy athletic director Logan Van Staalduinen is a State graduate and was a team manger under Keatts while he was in school.

“This run means everything to all Pack fans because we are starved for success,” he said. ‘We are pretty much a cursed fan base who always wonders how we are going to blow it this time. I’ve watched the 30 for 30 Survive and Advance about 1983 maybe 100 times, so it’s really cool that I get to talk about 2024. I got to see first-hand how hard the players and coaches work every day and it’s awesome that it’s finally paying off for them. My recipe for success this entire post-season has been to be extremely negative and it’s worked every time so I’m sticking with it. I am very hopeful, but not optimistic about the Final Four.”

Spoken like a true Wolfpacker.

I’ve enjoyed the men’s and women’s tournaments so far and by the way, the Wolfpack women are also in the Final Four.

I’m fine with Duke losing to the Pack Sunday because the better team won. Best of all, I’ve heard absolutely nothing from the light blue fans for going on two weeks.

The State women play top-seeded South Carolina, while Iowa takes on UConn Friday with the title tilt Sunday.
N.C. St-Purdue and UConn-Alabama are Saturday for the men, with the championship Monday. Should be entertaining no matter the outcome.