Friday, March 7, 2014

Remembering the 1974 ACC Tournament championship game

Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most memorable and significant games in college basketball history. The 1974 ACC tournament final in Greensboro pitted NC State against Maryland with the eventual national champion Wolfpack prevailing in overtime 103-100.

The telecast started at 8:30 pm ET on Saturday 3/9/74 and was produced by the Chesley network which held the ACC TV rights. The legendary duo of Jim Thacker and Billy Packer were the announcers. Chesley had featured a matchup of the same two schools for his 1973 and 1974 nationally syndicated Super Bowl Sunday ACC telecasts. For the 1974 ACC title game, Chesley again provided syndication to other parts of the country. I remember watching it in the NYC market.

ESPN Classic will replay this historic telecast on Monday 3/10 at 7:30 am ET. (The quality of the footage is quite good. Unfortunately, the last few minutes of the game and the OT session did not survive.)

This game had it all:
  • Star power: Five future top-13 NBA 1st-round draft picks (David Thompson, Tom Burleson, Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, and John Lucas) were on the court that night. 
  • Drama: In 1974, only conference winners could play in the NCAA Tournament and the ACC used a conference tournament to decide its champion, so this was a winner-take-all matchup of teams ranked #1 and #4 in the nation. 
  • Excitement: The contest featured high-level end-to-end action. Many historians consider it the greatest ACC game of all-time.
After the heartbreaking defeat, the Terps chose to decline an NIT bid. This game prompted the NCAA to relax the one-team-per-conference limit and expand the tournament in 1975.

One scheduling aspect which may sound strange to modern fans is that the NCAA Tournament started that same afternoon. It was only a 25-team event at the time with certain conferences getting pre-determined byes into the Sweet 16. During the telecast the broadcasters discussed the NCAA Tournament bracket and the fact that the ACC champion was slated to play the winner of the Providence-Penn opening round game which was being played the same night. Similarly, UCLA and USC played a regular season game that night for the Pac-8 title with the winner slotted into the Sweet 16.

College basketball was essentially a regional game and would not get a regular network TV package until two seasons later. 1974 was the first time that Chesley televised the entire ACC Tournament. Packer was in his third season on the ACC TV games. One week later, Packer worked his first NCAA Tournament serving as the NBC analyst for the East Regional.

Here is a brief clip about this historic game:

1 comment:

  1. I grew up in North Carolina and remember this game well. David Thompson could have been become one if the greatest pro players ever.