When Mark Gottfried took over the North Carolina State Wolfpack, he inherited a roster with talent. C.J. Leslie is a special player, and the pieces were place around him for a solid team. They played most of the season on the bubble, and then when needed it they won four in a row before falling to North Carolina in the ACC tournament. Now they’re in the Sweet-16 as an 11-seed.
Fun story, right? A first-year coach making a nice end-season run? After all, the Wolfpack hadn’t been in the tournament since 2006. This year they won 9 conference games (albeit with the easiest schedule). In the previous five seasons under Sidney Lowe the most they won was 6.
But rebuilding a team that was near the bottom of a major conference takes time. Or does it?
What if C.J. Leslie returns for his junior season? Only two seniors currently get minutes for the Wolfpack – the other C.J. (Williams) and grad transfer Alex Johnson. This means their top four scorers are returning (if Leslie comes back).
And even if Leslie doesn’t return, NC State has arguably the best shooter in the ACC (Scott Wood), a maturing Lorenzo Brown (3rd Team All-ACC), and Richard Howell, who would be an All-Conference player if he could stop committing so many fouls.
And then look who they have coming in next year. According to ESPN, NC State has the #7 class in the nation (#2 in the ACC behind UNC). Three players have signed letters of intent, and all three were selected to the McDonald’s All American game.
Surprised that NC State is winning meaningful games in March? Well, get used to it.