CSU-NC State Preview- Sure the Wolfpack is good but not 1973, 1974 good

I’m excited about the game tomorrow. It should be a good one. Very winnable if the Rams can get the ball into the paint consistently without turning the ball over.

There. That’s my preview. I haven’t done a full-blown pregame look all season since the St Mary’s game. I decided that the Debacle in Moraga was my fault for doing a preview so I just stopped.

So instead of a preview , I’m going to take you on a sentimental journey back to my college days to give you my glimpse at the best North Carolina State team ever.

Many of you have probably seen the highlight of the buzzer beating lay-in by Lorenzo Charles off an air ball to give State and head Coach Jim Valvano a national championship in 1983 over Houston.

That was an upset.

The 1974 National Championship was far from an upset.

I started to get a look at what was to turn into that team as early as 1971 when State came to Cameron to play a freshman game ( freshmen were not eligible to play varsity back then) . State had a skinny 7’4” center named Tommy Burleson who obviously could alter a game. Burleson was sent to the bench crying that night when he fouled out with State on the wrong end of the score. I’m not making it up. He cried. Because Duke’s Dave Elmer had torched him for 40 points.

My roommate played on Duke’s freshman team and his greatest memory of Burleson was the time he had a wide open jumper from the top of the key. He rose to shoot the ball when all of a sudden the 7’4” frame came from nowhere and the rim was no longer anywhere to be found. It was an eye opener for my roommate.

The following year we got our first look at the top freshman team in the ACC. Three players from that team would become varsity starters the following year. 5’7” Monty Towe, a spark plug who could shoot from anywhere on the court. Tim Stoddard, a 6’8” beast of a Power Forward. And then there was David Thompson.

6’4” and slender. Not the most assuming figure. But when the lights went on he became Superman. He was faster than everyone, could jump higher than anyone, could shoot inside and out.

Thompson played a lot of low post on that freshman team and was absolutely unstoppable. Dunking was not allowed back then. Had it been legal, he would have spent the entire game dunking on everybody.

For the 1973 season, Burleson, Towe, Thompson, and Stoddard were joined by a guard named Joe Cafferky, a feisty and skilled guard from the burbs of Philly. They rolled through the season undefeated. Unfortunately State wasn’t eligible for the NCAA Tourney. They had performed some shenanigans to get Thompson to Raleigh.

1974 rolled around and Cafferky had been replaced by
a slick guard by the name of Mo Rivers. They lost to UCLA in the regular season but advanced to the NCAA Tournament by winning what is considered the greatest game ever played in the ACC, 103-100  over Maryland in OT. It was win or go home back then; no such thing as at-large berths.

That 1974 team went onto gain revenge over a Bill Walton led UCLA in the semi’s and clinched the Natty with a win over Marquette. It was the only year Walton did not win a national Championship. Only his 4th loss over a career that featured a 71-game winning streak.

I have seen a lot of great college players in person in my lifetime.  David Thompson was the best of all of them. He had a great NBA career cut short by the effects of cocaine. Money Towe had a professional cup of coffee as Thompson’s caddie. Burleson had a nice NBA career.

And Tim Stoddard was the answer to one of my best trivia questions of all.

Who was the first off the 1974 team to win a World Championship ring?

The answer was Stoddard who went on to a 10+ year career in the MLB as a relief pitcher. He was on the World Series Champion Baltimore Orioles in 1983.

So thats my preview.

One more thing while I’m at it…

North Carolina State is a really good school. But back in our days at Duke, they were greeted with the following chant when they took the floor at Cameron:

”If you can’t go to college, go to State.”

So I hope you’ll join me in shouting loudly at the TV at some point in the game.

Repeat after me.

If you can’t go to college, go to State!”


7 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Two epic dunkers competing. Erving with his grace and Thompson with his 44” vertical.

    I remember the first time I ever saw Erving play a college game on TV. UMASS was in the Yankee Conference in those days. Not much exposure on TV for The Doctor. But he led UMASS into the NIT that season and their first round game was against eventual NIT Champ North Carolina (George Karl, Bobby Jones, etc.). UMASS got murdered but Erving was ridiculous. He averaged 20 points and 20 rebounds in College.

  2. Great read! I think you can tell how old the responders are! DT was my favorite player growing up. My youth basketball coach was Ralph Moore – beat writer for the DP (or was it Rocky Mountain News?) Still remember the ABA Slam Dunk contest against Dr. J.

  3. 5 year makes a great point about Monte Towe. The LAST cut on that Nuggets team to keep Monte was CState shooting guard Barry Sabas at 6’3”+. All preseason the father of Kaipo lit up the score board in the young McNichols arena. No Barry was not David Thompson, nobody was David Thompson but David Thompson and what David wanted David got and he wanted the 5’7” Towe for 2 years at least and then he went home to assist Coach Norm Sloan.

    The other memorable moment for me regarding the Wolfpack was the 1983 NCAA was the memorable night in Albuquerque in the Pit with Whittenberg’s near perfect “alley pop pass” (sure) to Charles for the last second dunk over the Houston Cougars with Olajuwon and the third incarnation of Phi Slamma Jamma. Jimmy V scurrying around the floor of the Pit was the trademark scene of the tourney for a decade. I believe that game above ALL others launched the NCAA as must see television and created the phrase March Madness. Over the next 2 decades the “Game” would capitalize with Hoya Paranoia, the Fab 5 and Grant Hill to beat Kentucky (which wasn’t a finals) making EVERY game is must see in the tournament.

    The NCAA tournament IS like a box of chocolates in any given game you don’t know what you are going to get.

    The NIT is not quite as thrilling to win but can be more disheartening because most squads and fans really feel like this is a game the team should win, but there are No Gimmes.

  4. Marvin Webster reference! Awesome!

    I didn’t talk about how good that Maryland team was in 1974. Tom McMillen – Sports Illustrated cover as a prep, All American, 10-year NBA career, Rhodes Scholar, US Congressman. John Lucas – he was a sophomore on that 74 team and I think he was the 3rd overall pick in the NBA Draft. Len Elmore – big out of Power Memorial (Lew Alcindor’s school), played in the NBA, went to law school, became a top college basketball analyst. Their only fault was that they played at the time that NC State was so good.

  5. Nor sure if the ABA Nuggets could have signed David Thompson without agreeing to bring Monte Towe along too. The GM Carl Sheer and young and upcoming coach Larry Brown had a lot to do with it. They also drafted a 7 footer out of Morgan State known as Marvin “The Human Eraser” Webster. Loved 70’s hoops. Thanks for the memories Steve. That Sports Illustrated cover is classic.

  6. I grew up going to basketball camp at NC State. Tommy Buerlson would teach a lesson on shooting the hook shot and then would stick around for a while and answer questions and play some ball.

    He’s a good dude. I was a State fan years as a kid. They had some lean years when I was growing up there though.

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