Rahul Sharma (Editor)

1983 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament

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MOP  Akeem Olajuwon Houston
Teams  52
Finals site  The Pit
Dates  2 Mar 1983 – 4 Apr 1983
Attendance  364,356
1983 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament httpsiytimgcomvi8l5N2eKdvL4hqdefaultjpg
Champions  NC State (2nd title, 2nd title game, 3rd Final Four)
Runner-up  Houston (1st title game, 4th Final Four)
Semifinalists  Georgia (1st Final Four) Louisville (6th Final Four)
Winning coach  Jim Valvano (1st title)
Top scorer  Dereck Whittenburg NC State (120 points)
Champion  NC State Wolfpack men's basketball
Similar  1982 NCAA Division I, 1981 NCAA Men's Div, 1985 NCAA Division I, 1990 NCAA Division I, 1992 NCAA Division I

The 1983 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament involved 52 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national champion of men's NCAA Division I college basketball. It began on March 2, 1983, and ended with the championship game on April 4 at The Pit, then officially known as University Arena, on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. A total of 51 games were played.


North Carolina State, coached by Jim Valvano, won the national title with a 54–52 victory in the final game over Houston, coached by Guy Lewis. The ending of the final is one of the most famous in college basketball history, with a buzzer-beating dunk by Lorenzo Charles, off an air ball from 30 feet out by Dereck Whittenburg.

Both Charles's dunk and Valvano's running around the court in celebration immediately after the game have been staples of NCAA tournament coverage ever since. North Carolina State's victory has often been considered one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history, and is the fourth biggest point-spread upset in Championship Game history.

Akeem Olajuwon of Houston (who later changed his name to Hakeem) was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, becoming the last player to date to earn this award while playing for a team that failed to win the national title.

National championship game

In the final game, played in Albuquerque, New Mexico, NC State led at halftime by a score of 33-25. Houston was hampered by foul trouble that plagued star Clyde Drexler, who picked up four first half fouls. The last of these was a questionable offensive foul; the officials ruled that Drexler had run into sophomore guard Terry Gannon, but television replays seemed to show that Gannon had initiated the contact and that he grabbed Drexler's legs as he fell to the court. In the second half, the Cougars came out with a second wind and established control of the game, eventually taking a seven-point lead.

However, things were not all good for Houston. Since the game was played in Albuquerque, players had to deal with the city's mile-high altitude. The Cougars' star center, Akeem Olajuwon, had problems adjusting to the environment and tired quickly, needing to check out of the game multiple times so he could put on an oxygen mask and recover. With Olajuwon on the bench, Houston head coach Guy Lewis decided that in order to protect the lead and the health of his big man at the same time, the Cougars needed to start slowing the game down.

Once again, this enabled the Wolfpack to return to their standby strategy of extending the game. Houston's free throw shooting was very suspect entering the game, which worked greatly in NC State's favor as they were able to rally back and even the score at 52 in the final two minutes. On what would be the last Houston possession, Valvano called for his players to back off and let freshman guard Alvin Franklin bring the ball up the court. The Wolfpack defenders would let the Cougars employ their slowdown strategy of passing it around. Once the ball got back to Franklin, whenever that happened, he was to be fouled immediately. With 1:05 left, the freshman was fouled and sent to the line for a one-and-one. The idea to foul Franklin sprung from the enormity of the moment; NC State believed that the relatively inexperienced Franklin could not withstand the pressure of going to the line with the championship at stake and knowing that fifty million viewers were tuned in to watch the game. The theory proved correct as Franklin failed to convert and the Wolfpack grabbed the rebound. Valvano called timeout with 44 seconds left and drew up a play for senior guard Dereck Whittenburg during the timeout, which called for the team to pass him the ball with ten seconds left on the clock so he could take the final shot.

Houston needed a defensive stop so they could get another chance to close out the game. Lewis decided to move from the man-to-man defense his team had been running the whole game to a half court zone trap defense. The Wolfpack, who were not expecting the defensive adjustment, were forced to deviate and began passing the ball around just to keep the Cougars from stealing it. Houston nearly got the turnover it was looking for when Whittenburg made an errant pass to Gannon that Drexler nearly came away with before the sophomore regained control of the ball. The ball eventually wound up in the hands of guard Sidney Lowe, who gave it to forward and fellow senior Thurl Bailey in the corner.

Trying to keep the ball moving, as he had been double teamed as soon as he received the pass, Bailey looked back toward Whittenburg, who was approximately thirty feet away from the hoop near midcourt. Bailey threw what Whittenburg would later call a "poor fundamental" overhanded pass which Houston's Benny Anders, guarding Whittenburg on the play, was in position to steal. At this point, Whittenburg harkened back to his high school days with Morgan Wootten at DeMatha Catholic High School, where he was taught to catch the basketball with both hands every time he possessed it. By doing this, he was able to defend against Anders trying to steal the ball, as he only went for it with one hand. If Whittenburg had not done that, Anders would have had an uncontested breakaway toward the other end and would likely have gotten the winning score; at the time, college basketball games were played with a running clock from beginning to end (this is no longer the case) and the Wolfpack would likely not have had enough time to even inbound the ball. As it was, though, Anders merely knocked the ball out of Whittenburg's hands momentarily and the senior guard easily regained control.

The clock, meanwhile, had ticked down to five seconds and Whittenburg was still standing a significant distance from the goal, Once he regained control, Whittenburg turned and launched a desperation shot to try and win the game for NC State. The shot's trajectory took it to the front of the basket where Olajuwon was covering Wolfpack center Lorenzo Charles. As he watched the shot, Olajuwon said he knew the shot was going to come up short but he also did not want to go for the ball too early because of the potential for goaltending. Charles took advantage of the indecision by Olajuwon and went up for the air ball, then in one motion scored the go-ahead points with a two-handed tip-in dunk. The final two seconds ticked off the clock before Houston could inbound the ball, and with that the game ended and the Wolfpack were the national champions.

First and second rounds

  • Boise, Idaho (BSU Pavilion)
  • Corvallis, Oregon (Gill Coliseum)
  • Dayton, Ohio (University of Dayton Arena)
  • Evansville, Indiana (Roberts Municipal Stadium)
  • Greensboro, North Carolina (Greensboro Coliseum)
  • Hartford, Connecticut (Hartford Civic Center)
  • Houston, Texas (The Summit)
  • Louisville, Kentucky (Freedom Hall)
  • Philadelphia (The Spectrum)
  • Tampa, Florida (USF Sun Dome)
  • Final Four

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico (The Pit)
  • Bracket

    * – Denotes overtime period


    1983 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament Wikipedia