North Carolina State Crashing the Party of Favorites at Final Four

For the second time in four years, and third time in the last six NCAA Tournaments, an 11th seed has made it to the Final Four.

In 2021, it was UCLA. In 2018, Loyola-Chicago was the Cinderella that captivated basketball fans. This year, it is North Carolina State, perhaps the most unlikely of Cinderellas.

The Wolfpack lost their final four regular season games of the season, including to non-NCAA Tournament or NIT participants Florida State and Pittsburgh. Those four straight losses to end their season ended the postseason tournament hopes of N.C. State.

Then the ACC Tournament happened, and N.C. State beat Louisville, then Syracuse, then Duke, then Virginia, and finally North Carolina. Five wins in five days, and North Carolina State became the ACC Tournament champions and automatically into the NCAAs.

It should have ended there. The five-straight wins was the longest winning streak of the year for N.C. State, and surely it was over now that the NCAA tournament was beginning.

But then they beat Texas Tech, then Oakland, then Marquette, and now, for the second time in just over two weeks, Duke.

DJ Burns and DJ Horne Lead Way

Nine straight elimination games for North Carolina State, and now nine straight wins, thanks to the 29 points scored by D.J. Burns and the 20 points scored by D.J. Horne. At one point in the second half, the two went on a 10-0 run, sinking a Duke team that managed to score just five baskets in the first 15 minutes of the second half.

The Blue Devils were 6.5-point favorites, but lost, 76-64. When they played in the ACC Tournament, Duke was an 11-point favorite. And now, as the Wolfpack get prepared for Purdue, they are once again the underdog.

In their nine-straight wins, they have been the underdog in seven of them.

Burns was 13-of-19 from the floor on Sunday. He had four rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and he is on to the Final Four. Horne was 7-for-16 from the floor, and also had four rebounds and three assists. The 20 points scored was his NCAA Tournament high, and the 29 points scored by Burns was his season high.

It was such a good performance that two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic was delayed in getting to his postgame press conference. That’s because after finishing with a triple-double in a 130-101 Denver Nuggets win, he stayed in the locker room to watch Burns light up Duke.

“Really?” asked Burns when he was told about it at his own postgame press conference. “He dunks a lot more, he also shoots threes way better than me.”

But Jokic won’t have the eyes of the basketball world on him this weekend. That will be Burns and North Carolina State.

Just two weeks ago, you were getting +55000 for a North Carolina State national championship. With two wins left to go, it’s now down to plus +2000.

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