ESPN ran their annual summer basketball features this week that are just a little more than the one-sentence-type-stuff the media usually generates.
You can click here for their ‘Summer Shootaround’. What is the conference’s #1 offseason storyline?
1. Expectations at NC State: The last time the ACC media picked the Wolfpack to finish first in the league standings was 1988-89. But after a run to the Sweet 16 last March, forward C.J. Leslie’s decision to return for another season, the arrival of a heralded recruiting class and so many departures from the other top conference teams, expect Mark Gottfried’s club to top the ballots come fall. Point guard Lorenzo Brown needed knee surgery late last month, but is expected to practice before NCSU leaves for an August trip to Spain.
Boy, what a difference a coach makes?
The Wolfpack’s ‘scenarios’ play out as follows:
Best-case scenario: The best-case scenario for this team is, quite simply, the kind of season NC State fans have been desperate for for a decade, if not longer. Sure, the Wolfpack were uninspiring for much of 2011-12, but they turned it on in time to get to the NCAA tournament and didn’t waste their opportunity to impress once there. Now, with that bit of business behind them, talented forward C.J. Leslie returns with the most versatile and honed mid-post games in the country. Mark Gottfried’s class of top-10 positional talents shows up ready to contribute on day one; Rodney Purvis steps into a starring role right away, T.J. Warren adds creativity and size on the wing, and Tyler Lewis provides junior point guard (and undisputed team leader) Lorenzo Brown with a more than capable replacement off the bench. And don’t forget Scott Wood, one of the country’s deadliest shooters. If it all comes together as expected, NC State won’t just be the favorite to win the ACC title. They’ll have a deep tournament run well within their sights.
Hungry for a decade? How about ‘more than two decades’?
One thing I find interesting is that they are saying we have a “tournament run well within (our) sights”. Because, in UNC’s best-case scenario it is clearly stated that the Tar Heels can make the Final Four. So, we have two programs that are projected to battle for the top spot in the ACC. The exact same article proclaims that NC State will be chosen to be the top team in the ACC. But, the ‘top team’ in the ACC is expected to go deep into the tournament while the team picked behind the top team is projected to specifically go as far as the Final Four?
Please note – I am not complaining about any kind of BIAS here. Just pointing out an inconsistency that could indicate poorly executed work. I’m sorry, but I like rational thought and consistency.
Worst-case scenario: Leslie has been a mercurial player throughout his two-year career, and if his attitude and productivity don’t remain consistent, it will be hard for the Wolfpack to be truly elite. Likewise, any optimistic projection relies on unproven freshmen, particularly Purvis, as well as on the hope that Brown feels no lingering effects from an offseason injury. There is a lot of boom here, but there is also the potential for bust — a 24-win-ish season that simultaneously marks a major improvement for the program while also proving somewhat of a disappointment. We’ll see.
Is it just the ‘NC State fan’ in me? But, I see a ‘worst-case scenario’ much worse than this. All it takes is one injury.