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The Rise of DJ Burns Jr. and NC State: March Madness’ Unexpected Cinderella Story

DALLAS — DJ Burns Jr. had a rare moment without the lights and cameras on Saturday afternoon inside the America Airlines Center. When asked how he preferred to be defended, single-covered or doubled-teamed, NC State’s center responded, “I prefer winning. So however you come at me, I’m gonna do whatever it takes to win. I don’t care if that’s passing or scoring. I don’t care if I don’t get touches at all. I care that we win, because when we win, everybody gets noticed.”

When the lone tape recorder was turned off, Burns was asked again, what do you really prefer? “I mean that stuff,” Burns replied. “Nobody was knowing my name until we started winning, even with all those stats. Nobody cares about a loser. That’s why I decided to be a winner.”

On Sunday afternoon, Burns played one-on-one against Duke and outperformed them, scoring 29 points in a 76-64 win that secured a spot in the Final Four.

The 11th-seeded Wolfpack, winners of nine straight games, have shocked everyone with their unexpected run. This team is now part of March lore with their improbable journey to the Final Four.


‘He’s like a polar bear and a ballerina’: The incomparable DJ Burns is powering NC State

The SparkNotes version of how the improbable happened: Burns started dominating, the Wolfpack improved their defense, and success followed.

Strategically, NC State coaches made adjustments to their defense before the ACC tournament, which proved effective in their recent wins.

Burns, originally an unconventional fit for the team, became the focal point of the offense and has been instrumental in their success.

His journey from a graduate transfer at Winthrop to a key player at NC State has been filled with ups and downs, but his perseverance and talent have shone through.


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