Axios Raleigh

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March 28, 2024

Welcome to Thursday!

๐ŸŒง๏ธ Weather: Rainy with a high of 56ยฐ. Wind gusts could get up to 26 mph.

Today's Smart Brevityโ„ข๏ธ count is 832 words โ€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: ๐Ÿ€ Cardiac Pack is back

N.C. State standout DJ Burns Jr., No. 30, celebrates with Casey Morsell, No. 14, after a basket in overtime against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies during the second round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Photo: Justin Berl/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Since 1967, Gus Gusler has been watching N.C. State games at Players Retreat โ€”ย a legendary bar near the school's campus he now owns.

  • But he can't recall the bar ever reaching the fever pitch it did last Saturday night when the Wolfpack clinched a berth to the Sweet 16 in overtime against Oakland and thousands of fans rushed the bell tower on Hillsborough Street.

"I have never seen anything like it," Gusler said, noting his bar had its highest-grossing sales night ever on Saturday. "There's magic out there right now. Let's just hope we can keep in it."

Why it matters: For Wolfpack fans, this month's triumph in the ACC Tournament and the subsequent ride into the Sweet 16 has reinvigorated a basketball fan base that had gone from swaggering to cynical.

The big picture: N.C. State is this year's NCAA Tournament Cinderella story, winning five straight games in five days (a feat only done once before) to win its first ACC title in 37 years โ€”ย and then two more to get to the Sweet 16.

  • It has many reminiscing about 1983, when the "Cardiac Pack" went wire-to-wire as underdogs in the ACC Tournament and then to the national championship.

What they're saying: "I think a lot of us Wolfpack fans โ€ฆ feel that we're forever cursed" since the school dismissed legendary coach Jim Valvano in 1990, Gusler told Axios. "If there is a curse, maybe this is what's going to lift it."

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2. All eyes on the Triangle

Data: NCAA; Note: UNC has 6 championships, Duke 5 and N.C. State 2; Chart: Axios Visuals

N.C. State, UNC and Duke men's basketball teams are all in the Sweet 16 โ€” the first time that's happened since 2015.

Why it matters: The Triangle once againย feels like the center of the college basketball universe โ€”ย at least for the next few days.

Driving the news: North Carolina's big basketball weekend kicks off tonight.

The big picture: The three N.C. schools' success in this year's tournament so far underscores the ACC's college basketball dominance.

  • "It speaks really well of the ACC," ESPN's Jay Bilas, a former Duke basketball standout, tells Axios. "Traditionally it's been the best league in the country โ€” as good as any league in the country. Some people don't look at tournament results as being indicative of that but I do."

Read more about the upcoming Triangle matchups

3. Sweet 16 schedule and title favorites

Duke's Jared McCain shoots against James Madison during the second round of the men's NCAA Tournament. Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

๐Ÿ“บ Here is when the Triangle's three schools will play in the Sweet 16 of the men's NCAA Tournament.

  • The West Regional's No. 1 seed UNC plays No. 4 Alabama today at 9:39pm on CBS.
  • The South Region's 11th-seeded N.C. State takes on No. 2 Marquette Friday at 7:09pm on CBS.
  • No. 4 Duke plays the South Regional's No. 1 Houston Friday at 9:39pm on CBS.

๐Ÿ† By the numbers: Connecticut still remains the overwhelming favorite to repeat as national champions. Here's how the odds rank for North Carolina schools:

  • UNC has the sixth-best odds to win it all, but Arizona is favored to emerge from its regional, according to FanDuel.
  • Duke has the ninth-best odds of winning it all, and N.C. State has the highest odds of any of the remaining teams, according to FanDuel.

In the women's NCAA Tournament, here's when the remaining North Carolina schools play:

  • No. 3 N.C. State tips off against No. 2 Stanford tomorrow at 7:30pm on ESPN.
  • No. 7 Duke will play No. 3 Connecticut Saturday at 8pm on ESPN.

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4. The Tea: Another incentives agreement canceled

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

โŒ BioAgilytix Labs pulled out of an incentives agreement with the state that would have seen the company get $19 million if it created more than 800 jobs in Durham โ€” the latest in a number of grant terminations. (WRAL)

  • BioAgilytix employs more than 500 people in Durham.

๐Ÿณ Biscuitville's outsider CEO is trying to reinvigorate the family-run North Carolina company. (The Assembly ๐Ÿ”’)

  • Greensboro-based Biscuitville has 80 stores, with five more expected to open this year.

๐Ÿ™๏ธ Raleigh City Council is debating how to spend $1.3 million in funds to improve its downtown. (CBS17)

๐Ÿ“ฒ North Carolinians bet $198 million and won $142 million during the state's first week of legalized online sports betting. (Charlotte Business Journal ๐Ÿ”’)

๐Ÿซ Meredith College named Aimee Sapp, the provost at Williams Woods University in Missouri, as its next president. (Triangle Business Journal ๐Ÿ”’)

5. In photos: The Triangle's 13 national titles

Michael Jordan's game-winning shot for the Tar Heels in the 1982 national championship game. Photo: Getty Images

With all three Triangle ACC schools competing for a trip to the Final Four, we combed the national Getty Images archives for photos of the Triangle's 13 national titles.

Why it matters: The area's unique dominance in college basketball goes back more than 60 years.

Here are some of the photos from championship runs of years past:

1957

The Triangle's first NCAA Tournament championship came in the form of a massive upset, when UNC beat a Wilt Chamberlain-led Kansas.

  • The Tar Heels beat the Jayhawks 54-53 in a game that went to triple overtime.
(Original Caption) Titans Battle. Kansas City, Kans.: All American Lennie Rosenbluth (left), of North Carolina, sets up a block on All-American Wilt Chamberlain, of Kansas, during the NCAA National Championship game at Kansas. Undefeated North Carolina won in the third overtime period, 54-51.
UNC's Lennie Rosenbluth (left) sets up a block on All-American Wilt Chamberlain, of Kansas, during the NCAA National Championship game. Photo: Getty Images

Keep reading for more photos

๐Ÿ“ป Zachery discovered this great Brazilian samba album while listening to "The Bull City Cosmic Hoedown" show on WXDU.

๐Ÿ™Œ Share our free newsletter around the Triangle.

๐Ÿ€ Shout-out to reader Brian Castelli for leading the Axios Raleigh Men's Tournament Challenge and Seth Little in the Women's Tournament Challenge.

This newsletter was edited by Jen Ashley and copy edited by Lucia Maher.