At this point, there is bound to be a run on red sport coats in the Raleigh area. Call it karma, luck, or destiny – there's something about Sidney Lowe's red coat that has NC State and the entire ACC believing.
"It was freshly cleaned yesterday," Lowe said. "Picked it up this morning around 10:30, now we'll have to see if we can get it done one more time."
The Wolfpack fought and clawed its way to its third upset win in as many days, taking down No. 3 seed Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon, 72-64. As the upsets keep coming, even Lowe can't help but compare this to the 1983 championship run where he earned Tournament MVP honors.
"Today is Coach V's birthday," Lowe said. "So that's special. The way we are doing it right now, very similar to what our fans saw in 1983. This would be a tremendous accomplishment for this ballclub."
Now, just one thing stands between NC State (18-14) and the most improbable ACC Championship run in the 54-year history of the tournament – archrival North Carolina. The Wolfpack will be appearing in its 17th title game, and will be seeking its 11th tournament championship. The Pack has lost its last three championship games, including a 1997 loss to the Tar Heels.
"It's gonna be tough – four straight games in four days," Gavin Grant said. "We're going to go back and get some rest, its gonna be hard but I think we can win it if we just play hard, play together."
"We know winning the tournament is the only chance we have to get to the NCAA tournament. My first two years here I went to the NCAAs and I don't think I want it any other way – we're definitely going to be competing tomorrow."
Grant led a balanced scoring attack for the Pack, scoring 20 points and grabbing five rebounds. Courtney Fells put together his best tournament game with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Brandon Costner, who scored 52 points in the first two games of the tournament, had a quiet 10 points while Dennis Horner added eight points off the bench.
NC State had no offensive rebounds, committed 17 turnovers and had Costner pick up his fourth foul with almost 10 minutes left in the game. None of it mattered.
"Our young men just went out and played with a lot of guts, a lot of character, a lot of pride," Lowe said.
Virginia Tech (21-11) didn't help its cause at all from the free-throw stripe, hitting just 8-of-19 from the line while the Wolfpack hit 24-of-28. Tech missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity three separate times in the second half.
"I had one that almost rimmed out," Grant, who went a perfect 11-for-11 from the line, said.
The Pack jumped on the Hokies at the start of the game, hitting its first three 3-pointers to jump out to an 11-point lead. State hit on 67 percent of its shots but had 13 first-half turnovers that helped the Hokies keep the game in reach despite shooting just 39 percent.
The Pack got a scare around the eight minute mark when Engin Atsur came up lame on a drive and had to go to the sidelines. The Hokies cut into the lead as Atsur tried to stretch out his hamstring on the sideline, but the senior returned later in the half and helped put the lead back into double-digits. Tech hit its last two shots to make the score 31-25 at the break.
Virginia Tech came back to tie the game at 35 at the start of the half, with the Pack making just two of its first eight shots. State moved the lead back out to seven, only to have the Hokies tie it again at 48 with seven minutes left. But the Pack never relinquished the lead, fighting back ahead for good thanks to its performance on the free-throw line. Fells hit a huge 3-pointer with just under two minutes left in the game to stretch the lead to nine and effectively end the game.
"I just shot the shot and it went in for us and gave us a big lift," Fells said.
Now the Pack finds itself just a few more big shots away from becoming the ultimate ACC Cinderella story.