Caulton Tudor

Duke may have no chance, but neither did NCSU in '83

Posted December 6, 2013

Each time I find myself thinking Duke has no chance whatsoever against Florida State in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game, the flabbergasted image of good friend and old golfing partner Dave Kindred suddenly materializes in my mind with the impact of Jacob Marley’s face on Scrooge’s door-knock.

Kindred, an award-winning Washington Post sports columnist for many years, became something of internationally famous clairvoyant at the 1983 NCAA Final Four in Albuquerque, N.M.

Dave’s line “Trees will tap dance and elephants will drive in the Indy 500 before N.C. State beats Houston” will forever stand as one of the most memorable miscalculations in sports history.

In the years since, we’ve often kidded that at least his prediction didn’t wind up in a bold, belching headline. (Think Harry Truman beaming ear to ear and holding up the Nov. 3, 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune front page proclamation “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”.)

“Jim Valvano would have done that same thing, too, just like Truman and who could have blamed him?” Kindred moaned.

With The Raleigh Times in 1983, I covered the final 10 games of N.C. State’s basketball season. That string began with a startling 130-89 win over Wake Forest in Reynolds Coliseum on the final day of regular season.

The last of those 10 straight wins was 54-52 over mighty No. 1 Houston for the National Championship in the University of New Mexico’s coliseum, a place nicknamed “The Pit.”

On paper, State could not possibly have won that game.

On paper, the Pack could not have won against UNC in the ACC semifinals at Atlanta, or Virginia the following day for the league title, or UNLV in the NCAA second round, or Utah (in Utah) in the third round and or Virginia again in the West Regional final.

In the most technical sense, none of those games should have been wins.

But when it was all over, Thurl Bailey was sitting almost alone on a bench in what was left of State’s locker room. He had the net around his neck as I approached, sat down next to him, patted his back and made what I guess was stupid question/observation: “Can you believe this?”

He looked at me, smiled and quietly said, “Yes, definitively yes. I’ve always believed this. Every person in this locker room has believed this. What everyone else was writing in the papers and saying on TV and radio was interesting, but those things never have anything to do with what actually happens when the game starts.”

Obviously there’s a big different in pulling off a resounding upset in football as opposed to basketball.

For one thing, college basketball games last 40 minutes. Football takes an hour. It requires a longer, sustained effort to pull off a shocker. Basketball games normally are determined by 12-15 players. Florida State and Duke each will play at least 50 players Saturday night in Charlotte. Depth simply is more important in football.

But one thing is the same in football, basketball and all team sports, and that’s a common belief in the mission.

Bowl notes

As Duke leaves the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium after the game, UNC may be preparing to go.

Bowl matches won’t be announced until Sunday, but the Tar Heels (6-6, 4-4 ACC) are a prime candidate to play in the Dec. 28 Belk Bowl against an American Athletic Conference team.

If it unfolds like that, Carolina is likely to face Houston (8-4) or possibly Rutgers, which is 5-6 entering its final regular-season game against 2-9 South Florida.

ECU’s bowl placement is still completely guesswork but a slot opposite Maryland (7-5) in the Dec. 27 Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md., is among the possibilities.

The Pirates (9-3) lost to Maryland 51-20 in the 2010 game, Ralph Friedgen’s last as the Terps coach.

63 Comments

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  • jrt0856 Dec 7, 9:57 p.m.

    As an alumnus of UNC, by definition, I should not want Duke to win. Like a lot of others with no... View More

    — Posted by 82ndAAHeel

    Great for triangle football? LOL, I am sorry, but I would never ever pull for Duke in anything against anyone. Duke going 0-11, now that is great for triangle football. There is only UNC football.

  • Objective Scientist Dec 7, 10:28 a.m.

    This article and all the responses to it are "interesting" to say the least. From what I know of each team - Duke and FSU - "on paper" the match-ups and overall perusal of each teams strengths-weaknesses clearly favor FSU and the "odds-makers" are likely correct in predicting FSU winning by ~4 touchdowns. However, this is SPORT! Over many years I have played multiple sports and have been a fan of those sports when not playing. I have also been in a position to "study" sports. The reason we play the game is to determine the winner. There really is no such thing as a sure thing in sport when both teams are at the same level - i.e., Pop Warner football teams playing each other... ... NFL teams playing each other. Anyone who has followed sport know of games in which the underdog won! I use analytical statistical procedures in my work and sometimes the outcome is so "strong" it seems "100% certain" that is the way it WILL be in the population based on our sample data, but... we can never say that because there is always the possibility of error... even if it is infinitesimally small! Duke's likelihood of winning is indeed small - I agree with that - but Duke does indeed have a chance - Duke could win! Don't bet your house on it, but they could win. Stranger things have happened in the world of sport!

  • 82ndAAHeel Dec 7, 6:11 a.m.

    Grammar police please excuse my mistakes in last post. I have been up for 48 hours. I promise to try harder in the future not to make as many mistakes.

  • 82ndAAHeel Dec 7, 6:08 a.m.

    As an alumnus of UNC, by definition, I should not want Duke to win. Like a lot of others with no "dog" in this fight FSU has the best chance for the ACC to win a national championship. Thus a victory over Duke is a required step towards that accomplishment. Regardless, it is astounding how many of you seem "hiney sore" that Tudor has the "nerve" to talk about an upset. He is doing his job and discussing the game a day before the game. Most of you recognize I hope is a sports journalist, kind of what they do, like plumbers that fix leaky pipes.

    What other team in the Coastal that would not get trounced by FSU? 29 and half point spread. FSU beat Miami by 27 on the opponents field. Just let it go folks, Duke earned the right to play in this game. This is a at least great for Triangle college football.

  • 82ndAAHeel Dec 7, 5:58 a.m.

    Venombee, I should not be surprised with your screen name, but come on sir. I am sure there are young early teenagers that enjoy sports enough to read these comments. They hear ignorant language all the time from the internet, movies and unfortunately people in public. Why use something as pure sports talk to add to this travesty?

  • grh90 Dec 7, 2:05 a.m.

    Florida State SHOULD win this one, and rather handily. However, their freshman QB knows he is... View More

    — Posted by cjw6105

    The only way Winston has a baf game is if duke can get to him. FSU O-line is beastly. Winston may have as much as 6 seconds per play to throw. If that's the case duke gets waylayed 56-3. On the other side of the ball FSU's D-Line is seriously stingy, LB's quick and powerful. duke likes to run up the middle which plays right into the jaws of the beast. On passing plays duke will get massive pressure from the DL and the secondary is great in coverage and have the ability to take it to the house if they get the INT. 56-3

  • The Ramfather Dec 7, 1:35 a.m.

    Back on topic, Duke does not have the talent to stay with FSU, period. I think it's great for Dookies to support their team, but at the end of the day, you need to lose. The ACC needs a Natty in it's collective trohpy case, and the bowl split will give everyone a bigger recruiting budget. Amazing you have to explain these two realities to Dookies who spent over $150K getting a degree from there, and bandwagon Dookies who did not know a football team existed 6 months ago...

  • The Ramfather Dec 7, 1:31 a.m.

    Duke did not have a chance in 1991 against UNLV either.
    We all know how that turned out.
    Go Duke.

    — Posted by bradford1959

    Gotta love a pragmatic Dook fan...

  • rushbot Dec 6, 11:10 p.m.

    i gots a question for the masses..does anyone know what fsu's team speed is compared to vatech???

  • rick19 Dec 6, 11:08 p.m.

    Turnovers and x plays...it's what makes Fla state so good. Duke avoids these and it will be close. We'll see tomorrow night how it goes.

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