Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE
The Pack's fan base (and a lot of the rest of us) have been waiting for a great NC State team to come along. But is this really that team?
First, let's just say how great it is to have the Pack back. Whether or not they reach the lofty expectations seemingly everyone has for them this year, they are going to be a very good and very competitive team. Everyone in the Triangle is excited about that.
While the players that State lost were mostly reserves, they were critical to the Wolfpack's success.. CJ Williams (10ppg) was a knockdown shooter starting at the 3, Alex Johnson took good care of the ball in spelling Zo Brown and Deshawn Painter was Richard Howell light (which is still pretty hefty) and that was especially important given the foul trouble that Howell constantly found himself in.
The core 4 that State returns is as good as any other 4 returning players in the ACC. I was roundly naysayed on Twitter at the end of last season when I compared Lorenzo Brown to Russell Westbrook. Just wait. At the end of this year you will be hearing it all the time. He may not be quite as explosive, but then again, who is? He needs to cut down on his turnovers and improve his 3-point stroke, but he's an absolute POY contender in conference. State's leading scorer Calvin "don't call me CJ" Leslie comes back to (hopefully) work on his decision making, which is really the only thing standing between him and stardom. Well, that and a jump shot. But he's as good an athlete as anyone in the ACC. Richard Howell is a straight manchild, and if he can stay on the court for 33 minutes instead of the 27 he averaged last year, he may average 12 rebounds a game and lead the conference again. And then there's Scott Wood, who is a really good player and shooter, but just needs to man up at critical moments. His shot always seemed to leave him at the wrong time last year and often he just failed to assert himself in the same way he had as an underclassman.
State brings in a stellar recruiting class that needs to be as advertised in order for them to be a top-tier team. Rodney Purvis (#6 SG) is an attacking scorer who will start at shooting guard right away and is the odds-on favorite for freshman of the year. Tyler Lewis (#7 PG) is a true PG, in the Chris Corchiani mold and will need to spell Brown with 10 quality minutes per game. Maybe the most important piece is 6'8" T.J. Warren ( #6 SF), who will be critical to providing front court depth, though his reputation is more of a shooter/scorer than an interior player.
This team is loaded with talent and no one can deny it. Brown and Leslie will probably be lottery picks and Woods and Howell could both be All-ACC players. The question will be depth. The pack can afford neither injury nor foul trouble, particularly in the frontcourt, as Jordan Vandenberg and Thomas de Thaey are not especially inspiring safety nets. If Leslie and Howell can average over 30 minutes per game, and those freshmen produce, this team has Final Four potential. If not, welcome to the land of high expectations State fans. It ain't all it's cracked up to be.