Oh to be One Again at NC State
North Carolina State has not finished first in the ACC since 1989. They have not won the conference tournament since 1987. In those years, the immortal Jim Valvano was head coach. Since Valvano’s departure, the Wolfpack have gone through three more coaches before landing on Mark Gottfried to start the 2011 season. Last season’s team made it all the way to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. No NC State team had advanced farther since, you guessed it, Jim Valvano was in charge. And now, no NC State squad has had higher expectations since Jimmy V’s reign.
For the first time in ages, North Carolina State comes into a season as the highest ranked ACC school. The first USA Today coaches poll of the season put them sixth in the nation (with Duke eighth and UNC 12th). Prior to Florida State’s surprising run last year, either Duke or North Carolina had won the conference tournament 14 of the previous 15 seasons. And now NC State is supposed to be better than both of them?
The roster is indeed talented. Veteran forwards Richard Howell and CJ Leslie will be joined by top flight recruits who, in the past, would choose to attend one of the aforementioned Carolina schools rather than NC State. Coach Gottfried also has guard Lorenzo Brown running his offense. Brown is one of the best guards in the conference and should battle for ACC Player of the Year honors if things go as planned.
Yet it still seems like a mistake ranking NC State this high. Are they really a championship-caliber team? Are they really better than Duke AND North Carolina? The voters seem to think so.