While we’re a blog that likes to focus our attention on the 15-501 rivalry, it’s certainly worth noting what’s happening in Raleigh these days, as top-15 recruit C.J. Leslie rewarded N.C. State’s vote of confidence in Coach Sidney Lowe by re-committing to the Wolfpack yesterday, giving State what some would call a top-5 recruiting class nationally. The feat is even more impressive when you consider that Lowe managed to hang on to his prized recruit even though Kentucky was in Leslie’s final three, and John Calipari has been snatching up top-tier talent lately at a rate that makes even Roy Williams a little jealous. I guess in the end Kentucky just wasn’t able to offer enough money a high enough academic standard.
State fans’ defense of Lowe has always been that he is a great offensive coach, but his teams lack the talent he needs to compete with front-runners UNC and Duke; it seems like he now will have something at least approaching that level. The Pack now have three incoming top-40 recruits joining formidable post player Tracy Smith for what will most definitely be a make-or-break year for Sidney Lowe at NCSU. Being a middle-tier team in the ACC with this assemblage of talent will not cut it next year - he has to win, and win a lot, or he’s gone.
This influx of talent probably makes UNC a little more nervous than Duke, as the Pack have always been rival B to the Heels (whereas I would say Maryland is Duke’s second-tier rival) and UNC still has a lot to prove next year after falling on their faces in 2009-10. It’s fun having all three Triangle teams be good, but it’s also one more talented opponent to contend with in the fight to save face next year. Although, even the small amount of worrying may be premature - if Carolina proved anything this year it’s that top-ranked talent doesn’t always produce wins, and most of that blame ends up falling on the coach. We’ll see if Lowe’s big recruiting class turns out to be his salvation or the final indictment of his coaching skills.