North Carolina State leads ACC teams in the Associated Press preseason rankings coming in at number 6. Duke and the University of North Carolina are in the running every year, and usually ranked a bit higher in the preseason than this year. With UNC rebuilding after losing 4 of their 5 starters, and Duke losing star guard Austin Rivers to the NBA, the power is shifting in the ACC. The biggest expectation this season in the conference is N.C. State.
N.C. State has their top 4 scorers from a season ago returning this year in junior forward C.J. Leslie, junior guard Lorenzo Brown, senior forward Scott Wood, and senior forward Richard Howell. If these four stay healthy, Head Coach Mark Gottfried knows what to expect for production. The Wolfpack lost their fifth scorer and starter C.J. Williams to graduation in the spring. What will be interesting to watch is the development of freshman guard Rodney Purvis. Purvis is predicted to be one of the top freshmen in all of NCAA basketball this year, and could help push this team to the next level as their fifth starter. Purvis possesses super speed and athleticism, which will help fluster opposing defenses. The ceiling for Purvis is towering, but with the veteran talent on this team he won’t feel too much of that pressure in his freshman season.
N.C. State does not have a solid true center on their roster and will start games with three forwards. The 6’9” 200 lb. Leslie, and 6’8” 257 lb. Howell will be their most imposing forces in the post. They have one 7-footer on their bench in Jordan Vanderberg, but Coach Gottfried isn’t anticipating a large impact out of the junior center. Leslie was their top scorer in 2011-12 with 14.7 points per game, and also contributed over 7 rebounds per game. Leslie is also a defensive playmaker and recorded more than 1.5 blocks and 1 steal per game. Howell was almost a 10 and 10 guy last season in points and rebounds. Also contributing significantly last year was Brown who scored 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and almost 2 steals per game. The 6’5” junior guard does a little of everything and will help ease the workload of the 2 excellent forwards.
What could hold this team back is the foul tendencies of Howell and Leslie. When these guys are in foul trouble, especially early in games, it limits what the Wolfpack can do on both ends of the court. If they rack up the fouls simultaneously, N.C. State will have no options in the post game offensively, and opponents will score at will in the paint.
N.C. State will have a solid season and win more than 20 games, but as the season progresses, we will see just how good they are. They will be tested early in the season with a big game against the number 5 ranked Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 27. They face each ACC team twice in regular season play, and with teams like UNC, Duke, Florida State, and Maryland in the mix, the Wolfpack will have to stick together and play like the elite team they have the potential to be.