Busting Brackets

North Carolina State is the "Cinderella" This Year: How Does Their Run Compare To 2011 UConn And Can It Continue?

No one expected them to be here, and what they are doing has only been done one time before. So "Why Not Us?".
North Carolina State stars DJ Burns and Casey Morsell with all the emotions after their Round of 32 win versus Oakland.
North Carolina State stars DJ Burns and Casey Morsell with all the emotions after their Round of 32 win versus Oakland. / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

No one expected NC State Basketball to be in the Sweet 16, and what they are doing has only been done one time before. So "Why Not Us?".

With the game tied 75-75 and just 4:49 left in the first round of the ACC Tournament against last place Louisville, Kevin Keatts and North Carolina State were on the verge of being upset, now in a year where the Sweet Sixteen is comprised of 14 teams seeded 5th or higher, 11th seed North Carolina State has been this year's "Cinderella Story". After the win against Louisville, NC State went on to beat Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, and finally North Carolina in 4 straight days to win the ACC. That had not been done since 2011 by UConn, who went on to win the National Championship. Now being the only team seeded in the double digits, can NC State continue to make March magical?

The Wolfpack have quickly captured the hearts of many across the nation led by their star player and fan favorite, DJ Burns Jr. Burns, who is listed at 6'9 and 275 pounds, has been the star of the Wolfpack's run and has been the forefront of most of the media attention for the Wolfpack. However, this is not just a one-man team, the Wolfpack have been getting career contributions from key players including DJ Horne, Michael O'Connell, Ben Middlebrooks, and Mohamed Diarra. Similar to the 2011 UConn team, North Carolina State did not end the regular season on a good note, and everyone expected their season to be over. So how exactly does this team compare to the improbable 2011 National Championship team?

While both teams ended up winning 5 games in 5 days, the glaring difference between the two is that UConn was going to make the NCAA Tournament whether they won the Big East or not, while NC State had to win the ACC Tournament to make it. UConn ended the regular season 3-5, and the Wolfpack finished 2-7, including losing their last 4 games in a row. The other key difference with UConn, was that they were led by multiple future NBA players, including 1st Team All-American Kemba Walker. That was what made UConn capable of winning the National Championship, they had the talent, they just had to execute. The Huskies also received major contributions from future pros Jeremy Lamb, and Shabazz Napier.

The games and game results are what make North Carolina State and UConn comparable. Both teams had a rather easy first two games in their respective conference tournaments, with both playing the last place team in the conference. It's in round 3 where things get scary as to how close they are. NC State took down #11 Duke in a nail-biting thriller that no one expected them to win, the Huskies upset #3 Pittsburgh at the buzzer on Kemba Walker's iconic shot. In the semi-finals both teams pulled off the upset in iconic overtime games against Virginia and Syracuse. Finally, in the Championship games, North Carolina State upset their rival and heavily favored North Carolina, while UConn upset their rival Louisville. The game similarities are there, and their runs are oddly similar.

The Huskies ended up going into March Madness as a 3 seed, so they were not classified as a "Cinderella", but the Wolfpack are 100% this years "Cinderella". UConn ended up cruising in their first two NCAA Tournament games that year. NC State did so similarly going on to win versus 6th seeded Texas Tech, and then pulling out a victory against the then Darling of the Dance, 14th seeded Oakland. The Wolfpack will face their toughest test yet when they play 2nd seeded Marquette, on Friday night in Dallas. With a win the Wolfpack would advance to their first Elite Eight since 1986. It would also mark their 8th win in the last 18 days, a feat that has only been done by none other than 2011 UConn.

The Wolfpack will be facing the best of the best when it comes to Marquette, the experienced team led by Shaka Smart and Tyler Kolek are looking to go to their first Elite Eight since 2012-13. Can NC State continue their run? The answer is absolutely. The Wolfpack have been playing some of the best basketball I have ever seen, and every player is playing with 100% confidence right now. They have nothing to lose, and they have had nothing to lose, when a team plays like that, it is very scary. Staying within themselves and not letting the pressure of the tournament get to them will be the biggest thing the Wolfpack have to face.

Ranking Sweet 16 teams in NCAAT. Ranking Sweet 16 teams in NCAAT. dark. Next

North Carolina State will be the story of the weekend if they can pull off the upset and advance to the Elite Eight. Can DJ Horne and DJ Burns rewrite history and turn back the clock to match 2011 UConn? I certainly think they can. So, Why Not Us?