Preseason Top 25 + 1 Countdown

CBSSports.com College Basketball Staff
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 (AP)  
 
By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Blogger

Coach: Mark Gottfried

Career record: 303-167 at Murray State, Alabama and North Carolina State

Best NCAA Tournament finish: Elite Eight, 2004 (Alabama)

Years at current school: 1

Vital Info: No. 15 NC State
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Last season's record: 24-13 (lost to Kansas in the Sweet 16)  

Notable returnees from last season: C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, Scott Wood

Notable losses from last season: C.J. Williams, DeShawn Painter, Alex Johnson

Notable newcomers: Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren, Tyler Lewis  

Projected starters: G: Lorenzo Brown, G: Rodney Purvis, G: Scott Wood, F: C.J. Leslie, F: Richard Howell  

Why this team will be good: From a talent standpoint, the Wolfpack are up there with anyone in the country. They have four McDonald's All-Americans on the roster, plus another guy who was ranked in the top 30 of his class coming out of high school. Offensively, NC State can hurt teams in a variety of ways. They have great inside-outside balance, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell on the inside, Lorenzo Brown making plays off penetration, and Scott Wood knocking down shots from the perimeter. Throw in a trio of freshmen -- Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren, Tyler Lewis -- who were all very good offensive players in high school, and Mark Gottfried has himself some options.   

The Wolfpack have the athletes to play fast, but they also have the half-court weapons to play at a slower tempo. They crash the offensive glass at a high rate, share the ball well and play within their offensive system. Simply put, they're tough to guard.  

Why this team might disappoint: Although the finish to the season was great, one has to remember that NC State was only 9-7 in the ACC last year, beating zero NCAA tournament teams within the league's regular season. Will the Wolfpack carry over their momentum from March, or will it be another up-and-down campaign? The biggest issue for Gottfried could be utilizing his team's talent to its full potential. Players 1-7 in the rotation are outstanding, but there are a lot of guys who are going to want the ball. Purvis and Warren are scorers; how will Gottfried integrate them into the offense? Chemistry will be key.  

Defensively, the Wolfpack weren't great last season. They allowed too many open perimeter shots and rarely forced turnovers. Moreover, there is a severe lack of depth behind Leslie and Howell down low. Leslie had four or more fouls on 12 occasions, while Howell committed at least four fouls 19 times. The only other options down low are Jordan Vandenberg and Thomas de Thaey; Leslie and Howell need to stay on the floor.  

Bottom line: There are going to be very few instances this season where North Carolina State is not the more talented team on the floor. But that doesn't mean the Wolfpack are going to win every game. They were inconsistent last season, and it's tough to assume they will play the entire year like they did during the impressive March run. Leslie and Brown are two of the best players in the ACC, but Leslie needs to take that next step and become a force on the inside. If NC State plays to its potential, a deep March run could be in store.  

NC State has a target on its back this season -- both from opponents and from its rabid fan base. The Wolfpack have expectations heading into the year, expectations that Raleigh hasn't seen in quite awhile. Are Gottfried and the Wolfpack ready to handle that?  

Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "I don't know that they are that good. They're super-talented, but to be honest, there are some question marks. People are falling in love with the talent of the team, but I'm not sure they're a proven team. They're a very, very talented team. They have guys that can score at every position. Wood is a great shooter, and they have a lot of stuff around the basket. Good balance, that's what scares you.  

"The influx of talented guys is going to be interesting. They're local guys, McDonald's All-Americans who have a sense of, 'Hey, I came here to be a star.' It's not a bad problem to have, but it could be a problem. I think they're going to have to deal with some of the factors that go along with being as talented as they are. As far as chemistry, as far as having the target. Those intangible things for them are significant." 

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