In 1983, the Final Four consisted of NC State, Georgia, Louisville and Houston.
NC State and Georgia were on one side of the bracket and Louisville and Houston on the other.
We’re not sure which game was first but it should have been State and Georgia because the Houston-Louisville game was not only between the #1 and #2 ranked teams, it was utterly unforgettable.
Houston won 94-81 but that wasn’t the story of the game. The story of the game was the aerial assault Houston put on with Clyde Drexler, Benny Anders and Michael Young attacking the basket relentlessly. The basketball world had begun to catch on to just how good Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon might be too and the dunkathon was so great that even the Louisville players were going over to the monitors to see replays.
By the time it was over, no one gave NC State a chance on Monday night but the late Jim Valvano and NC State had other ideas. The Wolfpack had played UNC, Maryland, Ralph Sampson’s Virginia and the rest of the ACC and they weren't scared of anyone.
When the late Lorenzo Charles caught the short shot that Dereck Whittenburg threw up with time running out and dunked it, State had done two fundamentally sound things: Thurl Bailey had thrown a risky pass to Whittenburg, who, remembering what Morgan Wooten had drilled into him at DeMatha, caught with both hands.
And when Whittenburg threw up that desperation shot that he still gleefully insists was a pass, Houston’s Olajuwon and another teammate turn to watch...while Charles and Bailey head straight to the basket.
Charles got the glory but Bailey might have caught the short shot with :02 seconds left if Charles hadn’t also gone towards the ball.
It remains one of the great high points of the NCAA Tournament.
Incidentally, this game also supports one of our theories about tournament basketball which is simply this: better to have your best game at the end because the chance of having two great games in a row is pretty low.
Virginia fans of course should feel free to argue otherwise.