A reasonable goal for N.C. State this men's basketball season should be a 9-7 ACC record.
Preseason polls obviously don't support that assertion.
In the official ACC media vote Oct. 19 in Charlotte, the Wolfpack was picked to finish No. 8, ahead of only Maryland, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College.
In some outlooks, Mark Gottfried's first team is picked as low as 10th.
But all of that preseason logic is based on the misguided assumptions that the ACC is still a strong league top to bottom and that the Wolfpack's 16-32 conference record over the past three seasons is an accurate reflection of the program's ceiling in view of its neighborhood.
In reality, the ACC is not a strong basketball league and hasn't been for about a decade. It's a two-piston engine - Duke and North Carolina - surrounded by an assortment of interchangeable minor parts.
Recently, no school among the league's 12 has contributed more to ACC mediocrity than N.C. State. For reasons ranging from injuries to poor preparation to poor execution, the Wolfpack lost touch with its heritage but more importantly, its confidence.
My guess is that Gottfried will change that dynamic, particularly on the second point. The guy is not the next Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams or Dean Smith. But there's enough of Jim Valvano's spunky personality in Gottfried to think there will be a quick change in attitude, conditioning and commitment. Improvement in those areas alone will compute to three or four conference wins.
The ACC of 2011-12 is not your parents' ACC and definitely not the league your grandparents followed.
Three through 12, the league becomes a bunch of guys playing tag.
With Gary Williams no longer at Maryland, the No. 3 spot in the pecking order is vacant.
It might not happen this season, but the Wolfpack eventually will occupy that No. 3 spot and then challenge the top two. The first step on that path will begin this season.