How NC State Reached the Final Four: 2024 March Madness

Maybe it’s the Ghost of Jimmy V. Maybe it’s destiny, the residual love affair carved from the March 11 launch of legalized sports wagering in North Carolina.

Either way, delirious Tar Heel State bettors savor NC State’s run for the ages — from regular season obscurity all the way to its first Final Four college basketball berth in 40 years.

It’s also been a run to the bank for gamblers, cashing NC State at 7-2 ATS (7-0 as an underdog) and 9-0 moneyline.

The magic of this ride overshadows NC State facing Purdue at +9 on Saturday and being listed at +14 against powerful UConn in a potential championship game on Monday.

What matters is that the Wolfpack reached the altar of college basketball supremacy at staggering pre-tournament odds of +18000 (180-1) at DraftKings.

Or that gamblers have already cashed futures NC State wagers at +1500 to reach the Elite Eight and +5500 to attain the Final Four.

Ching. Ching. Carolina Ching.

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How Did NC State Do It?

Many factors fueled this rise, like the suddenly-domineering play of center DJ Burns.

But much of it is the intangible tailwind of buzzer-beaters, key plays, and several players surpassing their potential, simultaneously.

When tailwinds propel teams, momentum gains a life of its own.

What did this wind blow in? A 17-14 team that lost seven of its last nine regular season games is now seeking to make NCAA tournament history.

NC State would become the lowest seed, No. 11, to win a national championship, by claiming two more games. Villanova, at No. 8, has the biggest Cinderella run, topping Georgetown to complete the deal in 1985.

Here are some angles on the ride North Carolina bettors will never forget.

The Jim Valvano Flashback

North Carolina fans and bettors compare this streak to the 1983 run marking NC State’s last national championship under beloved coach Jim Valvano.

NC State won a national championship as a No. 6 seed.

That team won four of six tournament games by six total points. You remember the double-overtime thriller against Pepperdine and the Lorenzo Charles dunk just before the title game buzzer that sent Valvano scurrying for someone to hug.

Yes, that team beat Houston — which had future NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler — 54-52 in the finals.

Now there’s an addendum to that Cinderella Story.

Gamblers Join the Party

You can bet March Madness on your phone now. Or on your tablets, home computers, etc. Throughout the Tar Heel State, it seems that everybody is.

“NC State has become, by far, the biggest liability we have,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told Gaming Today. ”Most of that money is coming out of North Carolina. The bettors were on North Carolina, Duke, and NC State as soon as the legalized wagering came on board.

“At least with Duke and North Carolina, the prices were much shorter. But the bettors have been believing in NC State and taking them in individual games too, at good prices for them.”

This is a perfect wagering storm. Not only does North Carolina have what many books consider the best college basketball state in the country, but newly-minted gamblers are armed with staggering resources.

They are stacked to the rafters with promo offers, introductory bets, profit boosts, and new player incentives. They used some of that money to load up on futures wagers for North Carolina teams.

More: North Carolina Sports Betting | Best North Carolina Sportsbook Promos and Bonuses

How NC State Reached the Final Four

What they witnessed was a team catching fire, from nowhere.

This team finished 10th in the ACC for the regular season. Its conference record was 9-11.

The Wolfpack needed an unprecedented five ACC Tournament wins in five days to reach the Big Dance.

They trailed lowly Louisville early before seizing a 94-85 triumph at -9.5.

You sensed something was happening when they blew past Syracuse 83-65 at +1.5 in the next game.

They turned heads by topping Duke 74-69 at +11, days after the Blue Devils had thumped them by 15 points. Hmm. They were in the ACC semis now.

Then came “Oh No You Don’t,” the moment you knew destiny was taking a hand.

The ‘Pack trailed Virginia by six points in the final minute and were +800 in the game across the sportsbook betting landscape. But Virginia could not put the game away and Michael O’Connell banked a miracle three-point buzzer to tie it. A Houdini moment, which NC State parlayed into an overtime victory.

The Wolfpack then won the ACC by topping North Carolina 84-76 at +11. Two wins over nationally-ranked teams in the same week.

This put them in the Big Dance and now they were spent, right? Wrong. They beat Texas Tech 80-67 at +5 and survived a scare against No. 14 seed Oakland (79-73 in overtime).

They toppled Marquette 67-58 at +5 and then Duke again, 76-64 at +7. At every stop, the betting lines indicated the NC State party was about to stop. But it didn’t.

On Saturday, it continues.

NC State vs. Purdue Matchup


The Wolfpack meet Purdue star Zach Edey, the odds-on chalk for a second straight Wooden Award as the nation’s top player. Burns is a key for NC State. He has burst out of a 14-point season average to hit 20 or more points several times. He delivered 29 in the last win over Duke.

Burns will try to avoid foul trouble and perhaps get physical with Edey, keeping the Purdue star away from the hoop.

Beyond Burns, it’s a matter of whether someone else picks up the slack.

As for the bettors, they see another salivating line. Giving nine points to a team that has won nine in a row and three over nationally-ranked teams?

Check, please. The majority of the handle backs the Wolfpack.

Regardless of how this journey ends, it’s been a month North Carolina bettors will never forget.

What an introduction to legalized sports wagering. What a monstrous, glorious wave. And what a gift.

Best of all, nobody saw it coming.


About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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