TEAM OUTLOOK Senior swingman Scott Wood is a true believer. When almost everyone else was talking about NC State rebuilding under new coach Mark Gottfried, the Wolfpack shooting guard was focused on making the NCAA tournament. NC State not only made the tournament for the first time since 2006, it also advanced to the Sweet 16. With four starters back and three McDonald's All-Americans arriving, Wood has bigger goals for this season.
BREAKING DOWN THE STARTING FIVE After an inconsistent freshman season, C.J. Leslie delivered on his spectacular promise as a sophomore. Leslie, a wiry, athletic 6-foot-9 forward, led the Pack in scoring (14.7 ppg) and blocked shots (1.6 bpg) and ranked second in rebounding (7.3 rpg). Though Leslie will have help up front in senior Richard Howell, the team's leading rebounder (9.2 rpg), frontcourt depth is a concern.
Without DeShawn Painter, who transferred to Old Dominion, the Wolfpack will have to rely on junior Jordan Vandenberg, a 7-footer who redshirted last season, and sophomore Thomas de Thaey, who played sparingly as a freshman. Lorenzo Brown, who played off the ball as a freshman in 2010-11, erased any doubts about his ability to run the point with one of the best all-around seasons by an ACC guard. He averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 assists (second in the ACC), 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals (first in the ACC) in his first full season as the starter. His confidence grew toward the end of the season, and he's expected to only get better as a junior.
Wood, one of the best shooters in the country, returns for his fourth year as a starter. The Pack were 10-0 when he hit at least four three-pointers last season, and his game meshes well with Brown's skill set, particularly in transition.Purvis is the leading candidate to replace departed senior C.J. Williams in the starting lineup. At 6-4 and 195 pounds, Purvis has shown the physical maturity add scoring and defense to the lineup.
NEWCOMERS For the first time ever, NC State signed three McDonald's All-Americans in the same class. Tyler Lewis is a pure, pass-first point guard who led Oak Hill Academy to a 44-0 record. Rodney Purvis is the most physically gifted of the three freshmen and will likely start at the off guard. T.J. Warren, whose father played shooting guard for the Wolfpack in the late 1970s, is a shooter who is more comfortable on the wing, but he will have to play some minutes in the post due to depth issues.
FINAL ANALYSIS The door's open for NC State to win the ACC's regular season for the first time since 1989. North Carolina and Duke lost six NBA first-round picks between them and are both vulnerable to a veteran team with talent like State's. But the Wolfpack went 9-7 in the ACC and will have to make a leap to the 12- or 13-win range. With elite talent like Leslie and Brown, Gottfried and the Wolfpack will have a chance "to do more" during the 2012-13 season. Just how much more will depend on if the Pack can pick up where they left off last season.
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