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Buzzing About Pack Basketball

For the first time since 1989, both of NC State’s basketball teams have advanced to the NCAA Championships Sweet 16. The Wolfpack men and women both play Friday night in Dallas and Portland, respectively. NC State’s gymnastics team will also begin NCAA participation this weekend in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Students in NC State gear pose with wolfies up — and scoops of Howling Cow ice cream.
Students enjoy free Howling Cow ice cream, courtesy of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, outside of Reynolds Coliseum following the women's basketball team's victory over Tennessee earlier this week.

The first time NC State pulled off the unique double of sending both its men’s and women’s basketball teams to the NCAA Championships Sweet 16, one of the smartest people in the room knew the significance.

“People around the nation will be buzzing about NC State,” said late Wolfpack women’s coach Kay Yow back in 1985, the first time she and men’s coach Jim Valvano advanced their teams to the regional semifinal round of their respective tournaments.

That’s the case again this week, as both the women’s team, coached by Wes Moore, and the men’s team, coached by Kevin Keatts, are taking their teams on the road to compete in the second weekend of their tournaments.

A female NC State fan feeds ice cream to her small black and white dog outside of Reynolds Coliseum
Even four-legged fans joined in the celebration and enjoyed some Howling Cow ice cream.

For the 11th-ranked and No. 3-seeded women, the weekend travel is not so unexpected and is their fifth Sweet 16 appearance in the last five years. After finishing second in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and advancing to the finals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, Moore’s team easily blew past Chattanooga and Tennessee to advance to face Stanford.

The 11th-seeded and unranked men, however, have become the media darlings of the ’24 postseason after winning five straight games to capture its first ACC title since 1987 and two games last weekend to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015.

Keatts’ team is the talk of the tournament, particularly affable senior center DJ Burns Jr., who won the Everett Case Award as the ACC’s most valuable player. He’s been on every local, regional and national television show imaginable in the last two weeks and is the current face of the program as it advances in the postseason. The team’s seven consecutive postseason wins is approaching the school records of 10, set over the 1974-75 postseason, and nine, set in 1983.

NC State men's basketball players hold up KJ Keatts as he places the NC State logo on a bracket board showing the team in the Sweet 16.
Teammates help KJ Keatts “fly” to the bracket board to stamp the NC State logo into the Sweet 16 following their win over Oakland.

Moore and Keatts have now matched the feat Yow and Valvano accomplished in both 1985 and ’89. It’s never been done at State since. The Wolfpack joins Duke, Connecticut and Gonzaga in having both their men’s and women’s teams in the Sweet 16.

And, just as their Hall of Fame predecessors supported one another, they couldn’t be happier for each other.

“Our players are good friends,” Moore told USA Today after his team secured its place in the regional semifinals with a victory over Tennessee. “Even with all his success, he comes to our game. I’m so happy for both teams and (the Wolfpack men) — they’ve been on an unbelievable run.”

For Wolfpack fans, Friday will be the basketball banquet of their dreams, with both the men’s and women’s teams playing simultaneously. The men will face Marquette at 7:09 p.m. in Dallas, while the women will play Stanford in Portland at the same time.

Members of the women's basketball team celebrate in front of a bracket board showing them advancing to the Sweet 16.
Members of the women’s basketball team celebrate in front of a bracket board that shows them advancing to the Sweet 16.

Overall, last weekend was quite successful in NC State athletics, as the No. 16 gymnastics team won the ACC championship in Greensboro and was invited to its sixth consecutive NCAA appearance, this time in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Fifth-year senior Emily Shepard was named the gymnast of the year, and fifth-year senior Chloe Negrete was named the specialist of the year.

With gymnastics and men’s basketball, athletics has now won five ACC titles this academic year, along with women’s cross-country, wrestling and men’s swimming and diving.

State’s baseball team also took a three-game series against No. 9 Duke at Doak Field at Dail Park, and the No. 14 and defending ACC champion women’s tennis team beat No. 5 North Carolina.

So everyone really is buzzing — or howling, whichever you prefer — about the Pack.