N.C. State has two teams in the Final Four this weekend. Its men's basketball team won the ACC tournament in March, sending them to the Big Dance. Photo courtesy of N.C. State Athletics

An enthusiastic crowd of over 100 fans cheered outside North Carolina State University’s Dail Basketball Center on Wednesday afternoon. The sea of roaring red and black t-shirts spanned across ages, from toddlers to alumni from the ’60s. Several wore special edition “Final Four” t-shirts.

They gathered to send the men’s basketball team off in style to the NCAA Final Four.

“Wolf,” one side of the crowd chanted. “Pack,” the other side responded.

As they shouted, shook pom-poms and held up miniature wolf toys, players emerged from the basketball center. Most had their cell phones out, hoping to record a short glimpse of Wolfpack players like DJ Horne and DJ Burns.

Mikel Rodenberg was cheering with his wife and three kids. They drove up from Greensboro.

Mikel Rodenberg drove from Greensboro with his wife and three kids.
Mikel Rodenberg drove from Greensboro with his wife and three kids.

“We were definitely stoked,” Rodenberg said. “Especially, our kids, you know, love watching the game. And so hearing them cheer loud and scream for the games, especially starting the ACC tournament, it’s been awesome.”

The men’s basketball team has been on a hot streak. It started when they won five straight elimination games to capture the ACC tournament. Since then, they’ve topped even that with four straight victories in the NCAA Tournament.

Jeane Brannan, a lifelong Wolfpack fan, has been waiting 41 years for this moment.

“I remember when I was 15 years old in ‘83 and going out and seeing the men’s team come back from Albuquerque,” Brannan said. “Things like that, at 2 o’clock in the morning.”

Like all true NC State fans, Brannan remembers well the underdog 1983 team that beat Houston to win the national championship. It’s the last time the Wolfpack men reached the Final Four.

But this season is even more special for superfans like Brannan, as a day earlier she was able to attend an equally raucous sendoff for the NC State women’s team.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Brannan was joined by her friend Patti Clapper outside Reynolds Coliseum with several dozen other fans.

Jeane Brannan (left) and Patti Clapper (right) awaited the women's basketball team at a sendoff on April 2.
Jeane Brannan (left) and Patti Clapper (right) awaited the women’s basketball team at a sendoff on April 2.

It was the second time the two were on campus to cheer on the women’s basketball team. On Monday night, they waited until 3 a.m. to welcome both teams back from their Elite Eight games.

Clapper said she never thought she’d have a chance to do this during her lifetime.

“It’s just history making,” Clapper said. “It will always be something that will be brought up every year. That NC State was one of the teams that had a men’s and a women’s team in the final four — and hopefully in the championship game.”

The last time the women’s team played in the final four was back in 1998.

Seniors Bailey Willis and Ada Jones never thought they’d celebrate a run like this before they graduated. They’ve been throwing watch parties since spring break for ACC and NCAA Tournaments games.

“We’ve been having the watch parties and then going out to the Bell Tower,” Willis said. It was so exciting. I’ve definitely screamed so much. Have lost my voice cheering for some of it.”

Freshman Peyton Garrett has also been watching since spring break. Both of the team’s winning streaks have led Garrett to start a ritual he’s been following every game.

“I’ve been at home for the past few tournament games, on the weekends,” Garrett said. “So a few superstitions, you know, the same shoes, the same jersey.”

NC State is the 11th team in NCAA history to have both teams competing in the Final Four at the same time.

The recent national attention might have a longer term impact.

High school student Alexa Zahtila attended the women’s sendoff during a tour of campus this week. She’s from New Jersey and said she wouldn’t be surprised if more out-of-state students wanted to join the Pack.

“I actually want to come here for cheerleading,” Zahtila said. “Seeing NC State being D1 and their sports definitely put it on the map for me.”

The women’s Final Four starts tomorrow, where the Wolfpack will take on overall number one seed South Carolina. On Saturday, the men’s team will play Purdue. The women’s and men’s national title games are on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

Brianna Atkinson is WUNC's higher education reporter and 2023 Fletcher Fellow, working in partnership with Open Campus.