Wolfpack's Gottfried saw ACC top spot coming

jgiglio@newsobserver.comOctober 18, 2012 

  • More information Preseason picks N.C. State was picked to finish first in the ACC for the first time since the 1974-75 season. 1. N.C. State 2. Duke 3. UNC 4. Florida State 5. Miami 6. Maryland 7. Virginia 8. Clemson 9. Georgia Tech 10. Virginia Tech 11. Wake Forest 12. Boston College

— N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried saw this coming.

For the first time in 37 years, the media picked the Wolfpack to win the ACC on Wednesday at Operation Basketball. Junior forward C.J. Leslie was picked as the preseason ACC player of the year and freshman guard Rodney Purvis the preseason rookie of the year.

Gottfried knew what would happen because it was the same result as the coaches’ vote earlier in the week.

"I think it was a set-up," Gottfried said of the vote by his fellow ACC coaches, which was the first in league history. "They set me up. It was a conspiracy theory."

Gottfried, who returns four starters from his first team, which won 24 games and reached the Sweet 16, wasn’t particularly affected by the media’s selection.

"We’ve never accused you guys of being real smart," Gottfried said.

The vote was historic nonetheless. The media has made its annual picks since 1970 and picked the Wolfpack to win the league only twice, in 1974 and ’75.

State hasn’t won the ACC regular season since 1989 and hasn’t won the ACC title since ’87.

Duke and North Carolina were picked to finish second and third, respectively, on Wednesday, the fourth time the Triangle teams swept the top three spots (in some order) and first since 2008.

"I’m old enough where I remember where Duke and North Carolina State and North Carolina were all three really, really good teams," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "And I think that was good for all of us. So to me, we’re getting to the point back where it used to be. And I like that. I really do.”

N.C. State received 26 of the media’s 53 first-place votes. The Wolfpack was also ranked No. 6 in the country in the preseason USA Today Top 25, which was released Wednesday. Duke was No. 8, UNC No. 12.

All of which is nice, Leslie said, but ultimately meaningless.

"It’s all great, getting picked this and that, but when the games start, it doesn’t help us whatsoever," Leslie said.

It was the first time since 2005 a team other than Duke or UNC was picked to win the conference and second time since 1997 (both times Wake Forest was the choice).

Duke, which went 13-3 in the ACC last season and finished second during the regular season, was picked to finish second and received 21 first-place votes.

UNC, last year’s regular-season champion at 14-2, was the choice at third, followed by Florida State, the 2012 ACC champions, and Miami.

Wake Forest, which has won five conference games in coach Jeff Bzdelik’s first two seasons, was picked 11th.

While the coaches and media agree on the Wolfpack, Gottfried still believes UNC and Duke are the teams to beat, just based on their track records.

UNC or Duke has won the regular season every year since 2003 and 14 times in the past 16 years.

The Tar Heels lost four first-round picks to the NBA, from a 32-6 team which lost in the Final Eight to Kansas (the same team that knocked out N.C. State) but the cupboard is not empty, Leslie said.

"Carolina still has great players," Leslie said. "They’re always going to be great."

Duke lost a pair of first-round picks and is coming off an opening-game loss in the NCAA tournament to Lehigh, but the Blue Devils have added depth and athleticism.

The Triangle teams dominated the All-ACC selections with Leslie and Wolfpack guard Lorenzo Brown joined by Duke forward Mason Plumlee and UNC forward James Michael McAdoo.

FSU guard Michael Snaer was the only player from outside the state of North Carolina on the team.

N.C. State hasn’t handled expectations well, recently. The media picked the Pack to finish fourth in 2011, and it stumbled to 10th. In 2008, the Pack was picked to finish third and finished dead last.

Which is why Howell, a sophomore on the 2011 team, is not putting too much stock into Wednesday’s predictions.

"It’s just something that somebody picked off of what we did last year," Howell said. "We haven’t proved anything this year."

Giglio: (919) 829-8938

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