NC STATE BASKETBALL
N.C. State played its best basketball in March and N.C. State played its best defense in March.
This was not a coincidence and it’s not lost on the Wolfpack.
“We’re always going to be able to score,” senior guard Scott Wood said. “But for us to be a great team, we have to be able to play good defense.”
After an offseason of almost unprecedented hype, at least in the past four decades, the sixth-ranked Wolfpack finally opens the season on Friday at home against Miami (Ohio).
And as Wood pointed out, scoring won’t be an issue. N.C. State cracked triple-digits in its only public warmup, a 105-80 win over Division II Belmont Abbey last Saturday.
According to Ken Pomeroy’s tempo-free adjusted statistics, N.C. State had the 32nd-best offense last season and returns 70 percent of its scoring.
Defensively, State’s adjusted ranking was not as good. The Pack was 65th, out of 345 teams, not bad, but no major conference team has made the Final Four in the past five years with an adjusted defense lower than 30th.
The Pack’s defense rounded into form by the end of the season when it went 6-2 and held seven of its final eight opponents under 70 points. Getting back to that level will be the early challenge for coach Mark Gottfried’s second team.
Luke DeCock (N&O)
Wolfpack’s Leslie looking to share hard-earned knowledge with freshmen
Richard Howell sat across the table from C.J. Leslie at the ACC’s media day recently. Leslie was surrounded by reporters, laughing, telling jokes – every bit the center of attention, and loving it. Howell, left momentarily alone, watched in amazement.
Only a year ago, it would have been difficult to imagine Leslie being comfortable in that kind of situation. After a year in which he found his legs as a player and as a person, exploding on the court as his personality blossomed in public, Leslie is as prepared as he ever has been for a basketball season.
“I’m definitely a confident person coming into this season,” Leslie said. “I’ve been here. I know what’s expected. I know how things are done.”
That’s obviously important for Leslie, the ACC’s preseason player of the year in voting by both the media and coaches, but it may be more important for N.C. State. After a sophomore year in which several teammates and a new coaching staff helped Leslie emerge from his shell, Leslie is expecting to put himself on the other side of the equation with N.C. State’s freshman class.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
ACC HOOP PREVIEW: N.C. State
Projection: Less than a year after athletic director Debbie Yow issued an open letter begging a nervous fan base to “keep the faith” while she searched for a new coach, her eventual hire Gottfried has stepped in and immediately turned the ACC’s balance of power upside down.
That’s not to say traditional powers North Carolina and Duke won’t continue to be factors. There’s still plenty of talent on both rosters, albeit young. But while coaches Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski are Hall of Famers who always find a way to do their best work when times seem the worst, neither will be blessed with a team stocked with at least three returning starters and a trio of incoming McDonald’s All-Americas in 2012-13. Gottfried’s Wolfpack will.
It’s a diverse lineup fueled by the preseason ACC Player of the Year, its best returning point guard and two other returning starters. As much as State will miss the contributions of departing seniors C.J. Williams and Alex Johnson and a pair of unexpected transfers, their spots will be upgraded considerably with the additions of McDonald’s All-Americas Purvis, Warren and Lewis.
All the team has to do now is go out onto the court and turn that talent and potential into wins. That hasn’t always been easy, especially when expectations are at their highest. But this is a different breed of Wolfpack – one armed with a new coach, a new attitude and a small taste of success to feed its hunger.
Though it’s still too early to officially declare State “back,” its improvement, its strong finish and the positive national exposure Gottfried and his program have gained since his arrival has helped lay an encouraging foundation on which to build.
The goal, after all, isn’t just to get to the Sweet 16. It’s getting to the Final Four and winning national championships the way they did during the Wolfpack’s glory days. That might have sounded like a far-fetched dream as recently as the start of last season.
But not anymore.
Ryan Tice (TheWolfpacker.com)
Mark Gottfried, No. 6 Pack ready to get ball rolling
Gottfried noted that the rookie must mature and not allow things to bother him so easily, but that’s part of the process that every first-year player in college basketball must go through.
“Most older players, like Calvin or Lorenzo, can relate because they can look back and say, ‘that’s kind of where I was a few years ago – if coach yells at me, if I turn the ball over or if I’m not playing real well,’ you can get down real fast,” he said. “I think, as we get into games, he’ll begin to see and learn all of the different things that will get throw at him. T.J. as well, and Tyler [Lewis] for that matter. Those guys just haven’t seen all of the things they’re going to see throughout the year.
“When you’re young, like Rodney, T.J. and Tyler, those are things you’re learning on the go. I think they’ve done pretty good so far. We’ve tried to throw a lot at them and expose them to a lot of different things. Again, it’s just going through that when the lights are on, as opposed to just doing it in practice.”
Those rookies will get their first chance on the big stage tomorrow night at PNC Arena, when Miami (Ohio) comes to town for a 7 p.m. tip.
“They’re a team that has some experience,” Gottfried said. “They’re not going to rely on a lot of freshmen and sophomores. Most of their players have played college basketball. I think they have a new coaching staff that has done a tremendous job at Tennessee State, prior to being at Miami.
“You’ve got a new staff, a ton of energy and veteran players that have played college basketball, so we’re anticipating that they’re going to come in here and be a very, very good basketball team.”
Friday night is just the first step in what the Pack hopes can be an improvement on last year’s trip to the Sweet 16. Gottfried will be attempting to become just the second coach in school history to take his second team to the NCAA Tournament, joining the legendary Jim Valvano.
“I’m going to learn about our team as we go through these first six, eight or nine games that will force us to make decisions on how we sub or who starts, all of those kind of things,” he said. “All of those things take time, it doesn’t always end the way it starts.”
Countdown to Tipoff: NC State Wolfpack
Mark Gottfried, NC State Head Coach
A veteran of 18 NCAA tournament appearances as a player and coach, Mark Gottfried led NC State to a 24-13 record and a spot in the NCAA’s “Sweet 16″ in his first year with the Wolfpack … Gottfried was named the 19th men’s basketball coach in NC State history on April 5, 2011 … Gottfried spent 10 seasons as head coach at Alabama (2000-09), compiling a record of 210-132 with five NCAA Tournament and three NIT appearances … during his last eight years at Alabama, 29 of 30 seniors graduated on time … he led the Tide to the SEC regular season championship in his fourth season, the first of five straight trips to the NCAA Tournament … Gottfried was named the 2002 SEC Coach of the Year … Gottfried was head coach at Murray State for three seasons and earned Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors in all three seasons with the Racers … he compiled a 68-24 overall record and a 40-12 mark in conference play â€¦ in his first season with the Racers, Gottfried’s squad advanced to the 1996 NIT, then made the NCAA Tournament in 1997 and 1998 … he coached Murray State to OVC championships in each of his seasons as head coach, becoming the first head coach to win three OVC titles in only three seasons … Gottfried spent seven years as an assistant at UCLA (1988-95) and was on the staff when the Bruins won the 1995 national championship … Gottfried started his collegiate playing career at Oral Roberts, where he was a freshman All-American during his one season (1983) with the Golden Eagles … Gottfried then transferred to Alabama, where he started 98 consecutive games and helped the Crimson Tide advance to the Sweet 16 each of his three seasons … he holds the school record for most three-point field goals in a single game (8), and is the school’s all-time leader in three-point field goal percentage (.485).
Andrew Carter (N&O)
Tipoff nears for No. 6 N.C. State, No. 8 Duke, No. 11 UNC
Without playing a game, the basketball teams at N.C. State, Duke and North Carolina already have combined to make history. They are for the first time all beginning a season ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation.
Now the No. 6 Wolfpack, No. 8 Blue Devils and No. 11 Tar Heels will hope to begin to prove themselves. All three begin the season Friday night with home games against opponents who, at least on paper, appear overmatched.
And while it will be awhile before we discover these teams’ true character – as well as their strengths and weaknesses – these opening games could provide plenty of early clues about where each could be headed, and what questions that surround them might linger awhile.
Here are storylines worth watching:
No. 6 N.C. State vs. Miami (Ohio), 7 p.m.
• How does a heralded group of freshmen – especially Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren – integrate with veterans?
The Wolfpack had its faults a season ago, but chemistry never seemed to be one of them. The team clicked, especially during its run to the Sweet 16. But greater things are expected this season.
Both Lorenzo Brown, the returning point guard, and C.J. Leslie, the junior forward, enter the season as ACC player of the year candidates. The freshmen class includes three McDonald’s All-Americans – Purvis, Warren and Tyler Lewis – and expectations have soared for them, too. But it’s likely to take time for this group to mesh.
• Can Richard Howell stay on the court and out of foul trouble?
Howell played an important role last season, but he’s even more valuable this season. With the departure of DeShawn Painter, Howell represents the Wolfpack’s only real post presence. This means he’ll have to manage to stay out of foul trouble.
That will be a challenge. Howell fouled out of five games last season, and finished 14 more with four fouls. He had at least three fouls in 29 games.
• How much will coach Mark Gottfried experiment with the rotation in the first game, game one, and early in the season?
Gottfried said Thursday that he’s “still debating” on the fifth starter to join Leslie, Brown, Howell and Scott Wood.
With the likes of Leslie, Warren, Purvis and Wood, the Wolfpack doesn’t lack for talented, versatile wing players who can score and play a variety of roles. That said, there are only two players who will set in their positions: Brown at point guard and Howell in the post.
Jeff Gravley (WRALSportsfan.com)
Let the Triangle hoops race begin!
1988 was a pretty good year with the Cosby Show blowing up the TV. Rain Man was a box office smash…yeah, yeah, excellent movie. The Redskins won the Super Bowl and a sneaker company rode the line “Just do it” to millions of dollars.
1988 is also the last year that North Carolina, NC State and Duke finished in the top 3 in the final ACC standings. (It was in that order too.)
This year could repeat the feat of ’88. For those who haven’t experienced when the Triangle is that good in basketball, it is absolutely insane. Our trio of teams are good enough to finish 1-2-3 in the race but a few things have to align for that to happen.
The Wolfpack is the preseason pick to win the ACC and is the highest ranked ACC team in the national preseason poll at number 6. They have the key mixture of talent and experienced talent. Toss in a highly ranked recruiting class and you can see why the Wolfpack was the preseason pick. Plus they have the best point guard in the ACC in Lorenzo Brown. Talented teams with proven point guards tend to go far in March.
One concern about NC State is where will their focus be. Is it on this season or what they will be doing next season? Are they content with what happened last year or are they famished to hang a banner in PNC arena? Coach Mark Gottfried and his staff have done a great job preaching to the troops how they haven’t don’t anything yet. Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie summed it up best, “We gotta beat Duke and North Carolina.”
Eamonn Brennan (ESPN.com)
Ranking the conferences: 1 to 32
Friends, Romans, college hoops junkies trembling in anticipation of the impending arrival of the 2012-13 season (one more day!), lend me your eyeballs. You have now stepped virtual foot into the ESPN.com Preseason Conference Rankings, the third annual edition in the series.
As you may have guessed, there is one goal: to rank, group and describe all 32 of college basketball’s conferences, from best to worst. Simple enough, right?
A standard disclaimer applies.
Because no basketball has yet been played, and I have not yet mastered the art of time travel (when I do, you’ll be able to tell, because I’ll come back wearing that cool jacket from “Looper”), these are nothing more than educated guesses based on a wide array of team projections and rankings. Think of it as an outline, one we’ll work forward from throughout the season. Deal?
As part of that deal, you should probably try not to get offended. Of course, I say this every season, and still the aggrieved emails roll in. You’ve got to hand it to college sports fans: Despite everything, they remain league-loyal.
OK, enough prelude, let’s just dive in:
The Power Six Plus Two
1. Big Ten: In the past two seasons, there was some argument to be had at the top of these standings. In 2012-13, there is no such uncertainty. Basically everyone I know/read/talk to/hear who watches college basketball — whether seriously or casually, using advanced projections models or the good old-fashioned eye test — considers the Big Ten to be the best conference in college basketball.
Why? Start with the five teams in the AP Top 25 (No. 1 Indiana, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan, No. 14 Michigan State, No. 23 Wisconsin), all of which are ranked even more favorably by Ken Pomeroy’s national preseason efficiency rankings (respectively: No. 3, No. 2, No. 12, No. 4, No. 5). With Trevor Mbakwe back, Minnesota is a fringe Top 25 team, if not better.
Meanwhile, the rest of the conference is aberrantly deep, with a trendy sleeper in Iowa, a talented young refresh at Purdue, a better-than-most-people-think backcourt at Illinois, a criminally underrated Tim Frazier at Penn State, and a Northwestern team that won’t be that far behind last season’s near-tournament miss. Only Nebraska looks to be downright bad.
The top of the league is great, the bottom isn’t far gone, and there is very little fat around the midsection, which is not something I could say about myself. This is simple: The Big Ten is loaded.
3. Big East: If you listen closely, you can almost hear it: That’s the Big East as we know it taking its last gasp near the top of these power rankings. Things will never be the same again.
OK, so that might be overstating things a bit, but you get the idea. Next season, Syracuse and Pitt will jump to the ACC. Notre Dame is soon to follow. But for one more season, Syracuse is a national title threat, the Irish are a bona fide league contender, Louisville’s returning Final Four squad is deeper and arguably even better, Pittsburgh is a likely rebound pick, and Cincinnati, Marquette and Georgetown are all more-than-credible NCAA tournament teams. The bottom half of the league is improved, too: Rutgers looks good, South Florida is a brutal out, St. John’s is talented, even DePaul looks to be moving into mediocrity.
In its swan song as the Big East we know, the league stands to still be quite good, and not just because it’s still bigger than most.
4. SEC: The addition of Missouri via realignment only adds to what is already not your father’s SEC.Sure, Kentucky still lords over the league, but there is more depth now than ever in the conference’s history.
Florida and Missouri are logical challengers to the young Wildcats’ conference throne (and potential Final Four teams), the Jarnell Stokes-led Tennessee Volunteers streaked to a 10-6 finish in conference play last season, Arkansas is on its way up under Mike Anderson, Ole Miss is a possible tourney team, and Alabama under Anthony Grant is a guarantee to play some of the best defense in the conference. There are some major reclamation projects in the lower levels (LSU, South Carolina, Auburn, and, yikes, Mississsippi State), but the top two-thirds of the league is strong.
5. ACC: Last fall, the best question to ask about the ACC was: What happened? How did a once-proud league get boiled down to three teams (Duke, UNC, and Florida State)? This season, there is reason to believe the ACC is recovering.
For one, North Carolina and Duke will be joined in the race to the top by NC State, which is ranked No. 6 in the AP poll to start the season on the strength of last season’s Sweet 16 run, and Florida State’s defense isn’t going anywhere.
Likewise, many are predicting Maryland, following the late Dez Wells transfer decision, will be immediately good enough to challenge the Triangle + FSU projections.
Miami could be one of the surprise teams of the season. But the bottom end of the league — Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Boston College, and especially Wake Forest — is still very much in rebuilding mode.
6. Pac-12: I agonized here. I really did. I wanted to put the Pac-12 below the one-year-only, get-it-while-it’s-hot, 16-team Atlantic 10.
After all, the A-10 is seductive, and the Pac-12 just submitted quite possibly its worst season in nearly 100 years.
Washington became the first regular-season power-six conference champ to not receive an at-large NCAA tournament bid since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. I mean … come on. Anyone interested in dissing the Pac-12 can stop right there. Check and mate.
But I’m predicting a rebound for the Pac-12 this season, though it hinges on a few factors. If preseason favorite Arizona exceeds its projection, and UCLA star freshman Shabazz Muhammad gets eligible, and Stanford takes the customary post-NIT-title leap, and Cal holds the line, and Colorado’s Andre Roberson expands his offense to go with his potent rebounding, and a totally revamped USC is as good as coach Kevin O’Neill seems to think, the Pac-12 could very easily start racking up a healthy number of NCAA tournament teams.
That’s a lot of ifs, so we’ll see. But it can’t possibly be worse than 2011-12.
7. Atlantic 10: In any case, if I had ranked the Atlantic 10 above the Pac-12, it would have been more a statement about the former than the latter. Because in 2012-13, the A-10 is going to be freakishly good. This is a result, of course, of conference realignment.
When the CAA and Horizon told VCU and Butler they wouldn’t be eligible to participate in their respective conference tournaments, both schools scrammed, taking their step up in league quality a season earlier than anyone anticipated. Because of the rush, they beat the impending departures of Temple (a constant league contender under Fran Dunphy) and Charlotte (not so much). The end result is a league that contains VCU, Butler, Temple, Saint Louis, Xavier, Saint Joseph’s (which has all five starters back), UMass (a trendy sleeper pick), Richmond (just two seasons removed from the Sweet 16), and emerging programs such as La Salle, St. Bonaventure and Dayton.
The tail end of the league still looks more like a mediocre mid-major outfit, but of the 16 teams in the league, I’d say 10 have a puncher’s chance at a tournament bid. This is the A-10 as you’ve never seen it before.
Jeff Goodman (CBS Sports)
Good ‘N Plenty: Ten things you need to know about the upcoming season
Ten things you need to know
3. The big boys are back. The AP preseason poll is loaded with teams that have won national titles. In fact, each of the top 14 teams have won at least one national title. It’s basically a Who’s Who in college hoops with UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina State, Michigan State, Florida, Ohio State, Michigan, Syracuse and Arizona. That means we’ll have most of the rabid fan bases involved this season unlike in years past.
4. N.C. State is the favorite on Tobacco Road. Yes, it’s true — and I saw it with my own eyes on a trip down to that area last month. Mark Gottfried’s team has more overall talent — and experience — than both Duke and North Carolina. The key advantage for the Wolfpack comes at the point guard spot, where Lorenzo Brown is clearly superior to UNC freshman Marcus Paige and Duke sophomore Quinn Cook.
9. The Big Ten is loaded, especially at the top. By my count, four teams have a legitimate shot at getting to the Final Four — and maybe even winning it all: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.
10. This is the final season for the Big East as we’ve known it. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are gone to the ACC for certain next year — and Notre Dame will join them (it’s just a matter of when). Temple will come in next season, along with Houston, Southern Methodist and UCF. The league just won’t be the same.
Team most likely to nosedive
Xavier. I’m not sure if anyone had a rougher offseason than Musketeers coach Chris Mack. He lost Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease to graduation, then decided to amicably part ways with Mark Lyons (who transferred to Arizona for his final season) and watched as Dez Wells (his best returning player) was kicked out of school after a rape allegation that wasn’t pursued by the grand jury. Two other Musketeers were deemed ineligible by the NCAA — Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds — and Isaiah Philmore was suspended for the first three games due to a paperwork oversight dating back to his time at Towson.
Xavier’s top returning scorer is Monmouth transfer Travis Taylor, who had a disappointing season a year ago and put up just 4.5 points per game. Mack is high on freshman Semaj Christon, as well as he should be, but the Musketeers are going to take their lumps this season before likely returning to typical “X” form in 2013-14.
Sending out best wishes to Rick Majerus, who remains in the hospital with a serious heart condition. Majerus is one of the most underrated coaches in the game and won’t return this season, maybe ever, but here’s hoping he’s able to recover. … Miami’s Durand Scott will miss the first three games as part of an NCAA suspension handed down at the end of last season for impermissible benefits. … Can’t wait for Tuesday night’s Champions Classic. It’s the second season of the four-team, round-robin event — and it’ll take place down in Atlanta. Kentucky plays Duke and Kansas faces a Michigan State team that will likely be jet-lagged after returning from Germany. … The coach who is basically a dead man walking? Probably Northwestern’s Bill Carmody, who didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament with John Shurna. … Coach who will save his job and get off the Hot Seat? Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford — who now has two of the country’s elite players in sophomore Le’Bryan Nash and freshman Marcus Smart. … Ten programs are ineligible for the postseason: UConn, Towson, UNC Wilmington, UC Riverside, Central Florida, Toledo, Jacksonville State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State.
Myron Medcalf | ESPN.com
25 burning questions for the season
8. Will North Carolina State own Tobacco Road? The Wolfpack hasn’t won an ACC regular-season title since 1989. But for the first time in nearly 40 years, Mark Gottfried’s program is the media’s pick to win the league crown. C.J. Leslie and the key pieces of last season’s Sweet 16 squad return. Rodney Purvis is crucial member of a talented recruiting class. Duke and North Carolina are definitely equipped to spoil the moment for the Pack. But right now, NC State is the team to beat in the ACC.
9. Will Kevin Ollie overcome the odds against him? Connecticut’s interim head coach is in a difficult position. He has been tapped as Jim Calhoun’s (temporary) successor in a season that will not include any postseason participation because of a subpar APR. Plus, the program lost Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb to the NBA. How will Ollie succeed under these circumstances? And is there any chance he’ll convince the Huskies to remove the interim tag? Stay tuned.
15. What will the additions of VCU and Butler mean for the Atlantic 10? The Atlantic 10 will be one of the nation’s most competitive conferences with VCU and Butler entering the league. Shaka Smart’s squad could win the conference crown in its debut. And Butler, which will feature Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke, will be tough too. Both finished last season with top-30 ratings in adjusted defensive efficiency. And that defensive toughness could lead to immediate results.
16. Will Arizona win the Pac-12? Like UCLA and Kentucky, Arizona has a team that will rely on a top-five recruiting class. The Wildcats also have former Xavier guard Mark Lyons. Sean Miller’s squad hasn’t received the same hype as the aforementioned schools, yet the Wildcats could overtake UCLA and earn the Pac-12 championship even if Muhammad is finally deemed eligible for the Bruins. They’re that good … on paper at least.
22. Is Tennessee the capital of college basketball? North Carolina probably deserves that status right now. And Kentucky has a pair of national title contenders and Murray State. But Tennessee is definitely one of the deepest states in college basketball. Belmont will battle Murray State for the top spt in its new league (Ohio Valley). Middle Tennessee State could represent the Sun Belt in the Big Dance. Same for ETSU in the Atlantic Sun. Jarnell Stokes and the Volunteers are an underrated group. And Memphis is the Conference USA favorite. Don’t sleep on the state of Tennessee.
23. How will Pitt and Syracuse depart the Big East? The realignment push has shifted the entire collegiate sports landscape. With Syracuse and Pitt exiting the Big East to join the ACC in 2013, one of the nation’s perennial powerhouse conferences will lose two valuable programs. Syracuse could end its time in the Big East with a conference title. It’s deep (as usual), athletic and big. Pitt freshman Steven Adams could help the Panthers return to the NCAA tournament. The shift will strengthen the ACC but also deliver a blow to the Big East.
Gottfried: All returning players have sharpened up
NC State head basketball coach Mark Gottfried said that he thinks that all of the returning players have sharpened up over the off season.
The Audible: Hoops relevance fueling Triangle tip-off
With the college basketball season getting underway Friday night, Mike and Mark discuss the buzz from the fan bases at all three Triangle schools that have high expectations.
8:00 Bryant University at (1) Indiana (Big Ten Network)
8:30 Maryland vs (3) Kentucky* (ESPN)
7:00 (4) Ohio State vs Marquette* (NBC Sports Network)
8:30 Slippery Rock at (5) Michigan
7:00 Miami (OH) at (6) North Carolina State (ESPN3.com)
8:00 Southeast Missouri State at (7) Kansas (ESPN3.com)
7:00 Georgia State at (8) Duke (ESPNU)
POSTPONED (9) Syracuse vs (20) San Diego State*
9:00 (10) Florida vs Georgetown* (NBC Sports Network)
7:00 Gardner-Webb at (11) North Carolina (ESPN3.com, RSN)
11:00 Indiana State at (13) UCLA (Fox Sports Net)
5:30 (14) Michigan State vs Connecticut* (ESPN)
8:05 North Texas at (16) Creighton
5:00 Lehigh at (19) Baylor
9:00 Southern Utah at (21) Gonzaga (ROOT SPORTS)
7:00 South Alabama at (25) Florida State (ESPN3.com)
5:30 Stetson at Miami (ESPN3.com)
7:00 Tulane at Georgia Tech (ESPN3.com)
7:00 Virginia at George Mason
7:00 Radford at Wake Forest (ESPN3.com)