NC State, 10th seed in ACC, starts Cinderella March Madness run early after miraculously winning conference


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This is March, Jim Valvano is smiling down somewhere.

Prior to the ACC Tournament, one could argue N.C. State was probably out of March Madness, but a miracle run has put them in.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack, the No. 10 seed in the ACC Tournament, took home the conference title after beating No. 1 UNC 84-76 in the final.

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NC State players celebrate

North Carolina State Wolfpack players celebrate an overtime win against the Virginia Cavaliers in the semifinals of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament on Friday at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.   (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

N.C. State pulled off upsets in their final four games to win the conference, but their last was perhaps the most impressive.

Given their recent play, it was impossible for the Tar Heels to take N.C. State lightly, but when UNC led by just one at half, it was a ballgame.

N.C. State took a 45-43 lead with 18:17 to go, and never relinquished it. They got up to eight with less than nine minutes left, but UNC quickly cut their deficit to three. However, the Wolfpack responded with a 13-5 run to go up 11 with 3:32 to go.

UNC forced a couple of costly turnovers to get back to within seven, but they were unable to take full advantage. N.C. State went up 12 after knocking free throws with under a minute left – all but icing it.

DJ Horne led the Wolfpack with 29 points before fouling out and DJ Burns Jr. added 20, while big man Mohamed Diarra grabbed 14 rebounds to go along with his 11 points.

NC State celebrating

NC State Wolfpack guard DJ Horne (0) reacts with fans against the UNC Tar Heels during the second half at Capital One Arena.  ( Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

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The Wolfpack beat No. 15 Louisville, 94-85, in the first round, then manhandled No. 7 Syracuse in the second round with an 83-65 victory.

The madness started in the quarterfinals against No. 2 Duke, who could have earned a top seed in the NCAA tournament had they won it all, but the Wolfpack stunned everyone, winning 74-69 as 11.5-point favorites – shades of Valvano’s 1983 team that survived and advanced.

N.C. State was just seconds away from their Cinderella run ending in the semifinals, but a buzzer-beater three forced overtime in the semifinals, and they eventually beat No. 3 Virginia, 73-65.

DJ Horne smiles

NC State Wolfpack guard DJ Horne (0) reacts after making a three-point basket against the UNC Tar Heels during the second half at Capital One Arena. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

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The Wolfpack will find out their tournament seed on Sunday. After five games in five days, they’ll have at least four days of rest before getting back on the court.

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