2012-2013 Basketball: Realistic Expectations?

We’re talking a lot of football on the site, and rightfully so.  But let’s take a quick side trip to the basketball court ahead of Saturday’s game and discuss expectations.

Do You Believe the Hype?

As we anticipate the start of the 2012-2013 hoops campaign, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory for our favorite team: high expectations, national attention, hype, hype, hype!  In general, most pre-season polls have the Wolfpack in the top ten, although there are a few outliers.  I’ve personally seen the ‘Pack as high as 4th, but in most polls, the team seems to fall in the 5-15 range.  One notably divergent opinion is the recently released kenpom.com stats, where the Wolfpack debuts at 24th.

I’ve seen national media personalities predicting a Final Four appearance, and I’ve seen others strongly suggest that the team is highly over-rated.  How do we set proper expectations for the upcoming season?

The Good ‘ol Days

One of the frequent claims about NC State fans is that we “live in the past”.  While I don’t agree with that assessment at all, if we’re going to get accused of it, let’s indulge our detractors for a brief spell.

In thinking about setting expectations for this season, I wondered how previous coaches and teams, especially those often referred to as “the good ‘ol days”, fared during the seasons when they went to the NCAA tournament.

NC State teams under Case and Sloan were sometimes dominant (locally, if not nationally).  But it’s instructive to note that while Norm assembled what I consider the greatest college team ever from ’73-’74, he only took teams to the NCAA tournament three times in 14 years as head coach.  Yes, he should have gone in ’73 and yes, it was a lot harder to get in back then, but everybody else played by the same rules.  For those doing the math, that’s making the tournament at a clip just north of 20% of the time.

How did that tenure look, season by season?  The following chart shows, by season, overall win % (blue) and conference win % (red):

During his tenure, Sloan took the Wolfpack to 3 NCAA tournaments:

During his entire tenure, Sloan was 266-127 (68%) overall and 103-77 (57%) in the conference.

What about Valvano?

Jimmy led the ‘Pack for 10 seasons, from 1981-1990.  His tenure, from the same perspective, looks like this:

By contrast, Jimmy went to the NCAA tournament 7 out of 10 seasons, with the following results:

During his entire tenure, Jimmy was 209-114 (65%) overall, and 71-69 (51%) in conference.

So what’s the point?  Simply that even during our historical high points, those that we look back on warmly and fondly, successful NC State teams were rarely dominant (at a national level) to the point that they swept through the season with ease.

Success Criteria

In my line of work, one of the most important things to do before starting a project is to establish success criteria at the outset.  So what do I consider success in a college basketball program?

  • Build on previous success, year over year.  Expectations for an emerging program should build on the previous year’s accomplishments.
  • Play to potential.  In my opinion, this is the ultimate measure of a coach’s effectiveness – his ability to get the individuals to coalesce into a team and maximize their performance.  Easily said, but difficult to measure.
  • It’s all about the NCAA tournament.  It really is.  All that matters is getting in the tournament with the best seed possible, and making sure that the players are peaking at tourney time.
  • Don’t cheat.  Find ways to maximize within the rules, compete hard with everybody, but don’t cheat.

My Expectations

Bearing in mind the vast difference between something I hope for and something I expect, my expectations from last year were pretty simple:

  • Work hard in practice, play hard in the games.  Not some of the time, all the time.
  • Play together as a team.
  • Learn the coach’s system, especially on offense.  Get good at it, to the point that when I see it, I think “hey, these guys are actually doing things on purpose.”
  • NCAA tournament bid was not required, but would be icing on the cake

Judged by my expectations, 2012 was a great year.

So here’s what I expect this year:

[unordered_list style=”star”]

  • Continue to fine-tune the offense, especially in light of incoming talent.
  • Focus on defense.  Outscoring opponents is fun, but risky.  Shutting them down defensively demoralizes them.
  • Don’t panic if you lose a game – even a game that you should have won.  A consistent winning culture has to be built.  Analyze it, learn from it, and fix it.
  • Compete in every game.  No blowout losses to ANY opponent.
  • Finish in the top three of the ACC.  The regular season “championship” is relatively meaningless, but to get there requires winning enough games to ensure a higher seed in the tournament.
  • Make the final game of the ACC tournament.
  • On NCAA selection day, be in a position to already know you’re in.  Duplicate last year’s success in making the Sweet 16.
  • Don’t cheat.  Don’t embarrass the University.  Go to class, make the grades.  Get help if you need it.


My advice to fans going into this season is to enjoy the hype, but view it cautiously.  Remember that most of the hype is being generated by national media figures.  These same individuals told us years ago to remember our place and to embrace our subservient position to the blues.  They told us we were fools to expect to compete with the blues.  They told us we were fools to be dissatisfied with HWSNBN’s mediocrity.  It’s ironic (to say the least) to see them jumping on the bandwagon, but they still have zero credibility with me.

Based on past experience for the program, I don’t expect to see this team buzz through the season crushing all competition with relative ease.  I foresee some head scratching losses, especially early in the season.  I will not panic when this happens.  But for the first time in years, I also anticipate some very, very satisfying victories as well.  During the Valvano years, I didn’t panic when the teams lost a game, because I felt like they would be ready at tournament time.  It’s nice to have that feeling again.

So, those are what I consider realistic and reasonable expectations.  I hope the team wins the ACC tournament, and puts together a Final Four run.  But that’s hope, not expectation.

For Those Who Can’t Help Themselves

In a nod to a friend, a die-hard State fan and absolute eternal optimist, there is a very small minority of fans and media members who are talking in hushed tones about national championship aspirations.  As I said before, I really, really hope to see that, but I don’t expect it.  Just for grins, I looked at the teams who won the eventual title from 1980-2012 and charted the total number of losses for the year:

As you can see, the number of losses varies widely from a low of one (UCLA, 1995) to a high of 11 (Kansas, 1988).  I made an attempt at constructing a 95% confidence interval around the number of losses and came up with 4.16 – 6.08.  So if the team gets to 7 losses, history says you’re not likely to be champ.  BTW, I haven’t done a statistical calculation in 30 years, so caveat emptor.

Fire away in the comments – where did I miss the mark?  And what are your hopes and expectations?



About ncsu1987

Senior IT Manager for Fortune 500 company living in central NC. Grew up a basketball player and fan, discovered college football while attending college. Proud alumnus of NC State University since 1987.

12-13 Basketball

49 Responses to 2012-2013 Basketball: Realistic Expectations?

  1. UpstateSCWolfpack 11/01/2012 at 6:48 AM #

    I believe this will be a very successful season, but I am not going to allow myself to expect a National Championship. No matter what happens, I feel this year is going to be at least a step up to elite status. If Gottfather continues recruiting the way he has, and can hang on to the assistants, the championships will come.

  2. Semper_WolfPack 11/01/2012 at 7:11 AM #

    Great article. I completely agree with your expectations. Hopefully, the team and coaching staff will live up to them. GO PACK!!

  3. Astral Rain 11/01/2012 at 7:21 AM #

    The goal for the season to me is an ACC regular season title.

    Tournament results are random, and a blowout in the ACC or NCAA won’t make me judge the season a failure if they win 13-15 games in conference, or 25-26 overall, and get a high seed in the Dance.

    That said, you win 25-28 games with an ACC schedule enough, your time for NCAA tourney success will come.

  4. coach13 11/01/2012 at 7:36 AM #

    Not sure you can compare the decades. Number of teams that got in the tournaments, strength of the league,etc…
    The ACC may be reloading overall but is still weak overall IMO and I would hope at a minimum we are top 3 ACC and cofortably top 4 seed in NCAAT. Minimum.

  5. ncsu1987 11/01/2012 at 7:50 AM #

    ^coach13: yeah, there’s probably some “reaching” here in order to do the comps. But that’s one reason I looked at percentages, rather than win totals, etc. The biggest comparison buster is that during much (if not all) of Norm’s tenure, each conference only got one bid.

  6. Pack Leader 11/01/2012 at 8:00 AM #

    Great read. I too have been cautiously optimistic about our chances this year, but I understand we are not where the “gurus” place us. Its easy to jump on the bandwagon in October 2012, and I understand every friend I have that supports UNX is just waiting to blow me up when State drops an unexpeted loss. I’m fine with that. We will have bumps along the way, we are not ’74 or ’83, we are ’13. Period.

    Expectation: Top 3 ACC, make it to Sunday in Greensboro, Sweet 16. Thats it.
    Hope: ACC Champs. Plain and simple.

  7. Texpack 11/01/2012 at 8:16 AM #

    Expectations/Goals for the season
    Top 3 in the conference (first in reg. season or an ACC Championship would be a nice bonus)
    Expand the offense some – Lo Brown’s ability to run the offense from day one is huge in this department.
    Continue with the type of team play, unity, and effort that we saw last year – the freshmen can’t be ego freaks
    Secure a seed for the NCAA’s no worse than a 4

    I think all of these are achievable if we stay healthy.

    Prediction – If we finish first in the ACC Regular Season, Lo Brown will finish in the top 3 for the Wooden Award. He could very well win it.

  8. slushy1975 11/01/2012 at 8:19 AM #

    We need to post beyond 9-7 in conference to be building upon last year’s success. I’d draw the line at that conference record and expect any better record to be progress. 24 wins from last year is very good.

    NEVER expect anything in the NCAA tournament. Every team has a puncher’s chance of advancement. Count your blessings as your team progresses. Ask Duke.

    “We should be better than…..” is dangerous territory to carry your expectations. These guys have talent so let’s ride w/ them for what should be a fun season w/ a tourney appearance.

  9. tractor57 11/01/2012 at 8:26 AM #

    Great read.

    I will say it is very difficult to compare results from different eras with all the changes involved. The other part is expectations years ago were more attached to the standing in the conference than on a national level.

    My expectations are for some exciting basketball, hopefully with equally exciting results. To be more specific challenge for the conference “regular season championship”, play well in the ACCT and also in the NCAAT. Once there use the Valvano strategy “survive and advance”.

  10. Wufpacker 11/01/2012 at 8:38 AM #

    Great piece.

    Want to see program take a meaningful step forward over last year. Basically not putting any specifics on that at this point. Just keep the train moving forward, and any big accomplishments I will consider gravy.

  11. Wulfpack 11/01/2012 at 8:43 AM #

    I’d like to see us win the ACC. Regular season or conference tourney. Top 3 in the regular season no doubt. Would like to see a top 4 seed in the NCAAs, and at least another run to the Sweet 16. Final Four would be gravy.

  12. state73 11/01/2012 at 8:44 AM #

    As far as I am concerned the season will be a success if we beat the tarholes and dook at least once. It would be great if we lose 5 or less conference games. GO STATE!

  13. Wagon 11/01/2012 at 8:52 AM #

    LRM and I are already making plans for Atlanta.

  14. vtpackfan 11/01/2012 at 8:57 AM #

    So come March and April it will be the 30 anniversary of our last National Title, which was led by some bonafide uperclassmen mixed with a few precocious freshmen. Our coach was charismatic and in his second year at the helm of former ACC powerhouse.

    Is history repeating itself a realistic twist of fate or a romantized fantasy of surrealism?

    Do you like Andrew Wyeth or Salvador Dali?

    Are there any CHASS Alums on Statefansnation who have seen enough bar graphs 😉

  15. old13 11/01/2012 at 9:05 AM #

    Thanks, ncsu1987 ! Guess we’ve been thinking along the same lines – how will WPN react if we don’t win the NC this season! Your stated expectations for this season are right on in my book – realistic, tempered, and hopeful. I’m trying not to focus on where we’ll finish, but, rather, how we get to wherever that is – always practicing and playing hard and improving. If that happens, it will be a good season!

  16. wolfbuff 11/01/2012 at 9:06 AM #

    12-4 in the ACC regular season
    At least a split with UNC and Duke
    Playing on Sunday in the ACCT
    4 seed or better in the NCAAT
    Elite 8

    Anything better than above

  17. STLPack01 11/01/2012 at 9:08 AM #

    great post ’87! I like your list of expectations.

    In brief: I expect us to be better than last year. I expect us to beat the blues at least once.

    I hope for far greater. I hope to be playing in April.

  18. charger17 11/01/2012 at 9:11 AM #

    Great read! Honestly, this kind of stuff is why I visit SFN multiple times a day. Keep it up.

    I too think it’s probably fair to not put too much expectation on the end of the season success. I would expect us to:

    Finish top 3 in ACC
    Be very competitive in the ACCT semifinal game
    Be very competitive in the NCAA second-round

    IF we win ACCT, make the s16, or better, that’s icing and is progress over last year. Go STATE!

  19. chilly water 11/01/2012 at 9:19 AM #

    Nets, I want nets to be cut

  20. packof81 11/01/2012 at 9:22 AM #

    This is a great article to put things in perspective. Thanks for posting.

    I know you’re referring to Herb Sendek with the HWSNBN but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this acronym defined.

  21. ADVENTUROO 11/01/2012 at 9:28 AM #

    Really a timely article. We are headed home from a month on the road on our motorhome. We were part of a convoy (decidedly light blue) that went to Tampa in 2007. Spent the night on the way at a KOA in Kingsland, GA. All the talk that night was about how UNC was going to dominate the tournament and how we would have time to see the sites of Tampa after our quick exit. Funny thing….that did NOT happen. When we stopped in Daytona on Sunday night, the talk was RELIEF about the fact that State had to play one more game, otherwise UNC MIGHT not have pulled it off.

    SO, when we stayed at the SAME KOA in Kingsland, my wife and I talked about the high expectations that we had AFTER the 2007 ACC Tourney….which was actually the high water mark of Sidney’s tenure, from a performance standpoint. His other High Water mark was the recruiting class that Coach Gottfried inherited.

    SO, all the hype about us in the polls is a bit disconcerting. BUT, I did not think that we would have boarded a charter to St. Louis this spring to go to the Sweet 16.

    Coach G and staff and team deserve our support and admiration for a great season last year. As a 68 Grad, I feel like I have been, from a biblical standpoint, a child of Israel. We wandered for a LONG time in the desert. We found what we thought was the promised land TWICE. BUT, the celebrations of the last time (83) seem almost an eternity ago and we have been punished for some unknown sin. If we KNEW what we had done, then we could repent…

    As to this year….I am hopeful for an appearance in the ACC Tourney Finals. I will be in Greensboro, regardless of who plays. I am looking forward to traveling for post season play. Will this result in an April 8, 2013 appearance in Atlanta, don’t know, but I have a bag packed.

    The team has to understand that the press does not win the games and keep their egos from writing checks that their bodies can’t cash.

    Coach G and company will have a different issue this year…..keeping the team focused on the fundamentals and improvements. There will be losses and if they learn from them and don’t get into infighting about WHO actually lost the game (a player or players), then they have a good shot at going to Atlanta…

    GO PACK….

  22. Tau837 11/01/2012 at 9:29 AM #

    My expectations, which I posted in a previous topic:

    – Only 1 regular season OOC loss (@Michigan)
    – No more than 5 regular season ACC losses
    – Top 2 regular season ACC finish
    – Advance to at least the Final Four in the ACC tournament
    – Advance to at least the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament
    – 28+ wins overall
    – Final top 15 ranking

    Meeting these expectations would have us flirting with the loss threshold (i.e., perhaps as few as 6 losses).

    Also, I posted the following in the forums thread discussing whether or not the basketball team is overrated:

    Brown and Leslie are both candidates for 1st team All ACC, ACC POY, and All American and are both potential NBA lottery picks next year. When was the last time we could say we had two players of that caliber? I’m thinking not since Fire and Ice, and even that comparison doesn’t truly match.

    And then to have those two backed by two seniors in Wood and Howell who themselves are 2nd/3rd team All ACC candidates plus 3 incoming McD All Americans suggests this is the most talented team we have had since sometime in the Valvano years, when we were regularly a top 20 team.

    And we have our most capable head coach and coaching staff since that same period.

    Put it all together and there is reason to think this team justifies high expectations.

  23. MISTA WOLF 11/01/2012 at 9:49 AM #

    Expectations that I want to see met….

    -Compete in every game and finish every game no matter the outcome. It doesn’t matter how you start it’s how you finish.
    -Advancement of our bench players to become 9 to 10 deep.
    -11-5 in ACC play. We all need to remember that we still play in the ACC. Every game home and away is a battle and I’m afraid a lot of you guys are forgetting how good Miami and Maryland is going to be along with that stagnant BS that Virginia runs. I think 13-5 is a step in the right direction and a solid finish in what I see is a good 6 team seperation from the others (Pack, Duke, Carolina, FSU, Miami, Maryland).
    – Split with the blues
    – The above being said I expect a top 4 finish in the regular season.
    – I expect a semifinal appearance and possibly an appearance on Sunday in the ACC Tournament.
    – A 25 win season.
    – An appearance in the Sweet 16. The rest is kudos. The gauntlet after that will be treacherous and we will really need some balls to bounce our ways to advance further than that.
    – Finally… Let the world know the Pack is back and we are here to stay. Claw when needed, Show emotion, Gott raising hell and working the refs and keep the damn foot on the gas and finish opponents.

    HOPES: Us cutting down the nets in Atlanta and the whole basketball team giving the WWE’s Degeneration X “suck it” sign to the cameras as they cut away…..

  24. jbpackfan 11/01/2012 at 10:20 AM #

    Just a note on record predictions- there are 18 conference games this year.

  25. packistanbul 11/01/2012 at 10:38 AM #

    HWSNBN: he who shall not be named…
    ours is less scary then another hwsnbn, voldemort, but i sure can see some similarity… thin, bold.. oops, i meant bald..
    great article!

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