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Jay Bilas: NC State's March Madness run 'most amazing thing I've ever seen in basketball'

It's a cross-state rivalry that dates back 70 years and is separated by a mere 25-minute car ride in the state of North Carolina.

So, naturally, it must take something significant for someone on the other side of college basketball's Tobacco Road rivalry to give props to their opponents — regardless of when they played in it themselves.

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NC State basketball advancing to the program's first Final Four since 1983 — the Wolfpack's ninth straight victory in the last 19 days since the start of the ACC Tournament — seems to check that box off for ESPN broadcaster Jay Bilas. The former Blue Devil called what Kevin Keatts, DJ Burns & Co. have done in the NCAA Tournament the best thing he has ever seen in basketball following Sunday's 76-64 win over Duke in the Elite Eight.

"NC State going to the Final Four this year is the most amazing thing I've ever seen in basketball," Bilas said. "I was a freshman (at Duke) in 1983 when NC State won the national championship, but that wasn't as amazing as this is."

So why is that? After all, winning a national championship is not an easy thing to do.

Is it because the Wolfpack lost their last four regular season games to be the 10 seed in the ACC Tournament? Is it because the Wolfpack have been underdogs in each of their last eight games? Is it because Virginia missed a free throw at the end the end of the ACC Tournament semifinals that allowed Michael O'Connell to hit that game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime?

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All are viable answers, according to Bilas.

"NC State this year was 17-14 heading into the ACC Tournament and they were playing on Tuesday and they had to win five games. It wasn't even a thought of any rational basketball person that the Wolfpack would win the ACC Tournament and they did it," Bilas said. "Mike O'Connell hits, what, a 40-footer with time expiring against Virginia after a missed free throw, they're down three and he banks it in and they go to overtime and wind up and win the game.

"And that was in the semifinals. And they beat North Carolina and move onto the tournament and you're thinking, 'They're going to be emotionally and physically drained.' Nobody can do that and just bounced back and they got a Thursday game. And they beat Texas Tech. Then they get to the Sweet 16. And then they are in the Elite Eight and they're playing Duke, a team they'd beat in the ACC Tournament and you're thinking, 'It's gotta end sometime' and it never ends."

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NC State now looks to continue its Cinderella run — which Burns has denied this is after the Sweet 16 win over Marquette — on Saturday, when it takes on Zach Edey and 1 seed Purdue at 6:09 p.m. ET in the Final Four.

Whether NC State advances beyond Purdue to play the winner of UConn and Alabama remains to be seen. That hasn't taken away from Bilas' enjoyment of the Wolfpack's postseason run:

"They had lost seven of nine headed into that Tuesday of the ACC Tournament. What Kevin Keatts and his team have done is absolutely remarkable," Bilas said. "It's the wildest ride I've ever seen in basketball and I'm enjoying it every minute of it. It's fantastic."

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Jay Bilas: NC State's March Madness run more 'amazing' than 1983 title