Nope, this is the year that is expected to belong to the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
NC State is usually thought of as the third wheel in a state where the Tar Heels and Blue Devils are typically vying for basketball supremacy in the state. Two years ago, the Pack was 15-16 overall and 5-11 in the conference. Forget about dreams of a conference title or NCAA tournament trip.
NC State was just thinking about finding a way to win games again.
But head coach Mark Gottfried has revived a program best known for winning the 1983 national title under the late and great Jim Valvano.
I remember when Gottfried was the head coach of the Murray State Racers. I was a college newspaper writer at Eastern Illinois and I talked with Gottfried several times since both schools were in the Ohio Valley Conference.
I can tell you that Gottfried can coach basketball. Of course, all you need to do to know that much is look at the fact that the Pack was 24-13 a year ago and played in the Sweet 16 in Gottfried’s first season in Raleigh.
But now the Pack is dreaming of going beyond the Sweet 16. The Pack is dreaming of a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta. It’s certainly possible, especially when NC State will be able to count on the presence of C.J. Leslie, a preseason All-American.
Leslie was sensational down the stretch a year ago, scoring in double figures in his final 16 games and averaging 18.3 points per outing in his last 11 games.
Leslie averaged 14.7 points per outing and pulled down 7.1 rebounds per game. The junior forward likely has a future in the NBA and he will give the Pack a chance to contend for a trip to the NCAA tournament and its first championship since 1983.
With that in mind, perhaps it’s not unreal after all to put NC State and ACC championship in the same sentence.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.