Wolfpack Primer

November 1, 2012 

Points returning: 52.8. The Wolfpack averaged 72.9 points per game last season and returns its top four leading scorers. The primary losses are guard C.J. Williams (10.6), forward DeShawn Painter (6.2) and guard Alex Johnson (4.4).

Go-to guy: guard Lorenzo Brown runs N.C. State's offense but forward C.J. Leslie is No. 1 scoring option. Leslie was particularly effective once he started taking bigger defenders off the dribble from the mid-post. Leslie spent the offseason working on his mid-range jumper, which will make him even more difficult to defend.

Impact rookie: Rodney Purvis won't be asked to fill C.J. Williams' leadership void, but he will be asked to fill his shooting guard role. Purvis is strong and quick and can get can the ball to the rim or get to the foul line. There will be a learning curve on defense, and his outside shot will need to improve, but there's a reason N.C. State devoted so much energy in getting Purvis cleared by the NCAA to play this season.

Best case: The experience is there and so is the talent and the opportunity to win the ACC. Either a regular-season title, the first since 1989, or the ACC title, the first since '87, would be a major accomplishment for the program.

But some of the players have used the words "Final Four" and Gottfried has talked about playing on "Monday night in April," so there are bigger goals than ACC out there for this team.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the Final Four, or more, is the potential matchups in March. Big, long teams are going to bother N.C. State, but the question is how many of them are there out there in college basketball and will the Wolfpack have to go through them to get to Atlanta?

Worst case: The Wolfpack can't duplicate how it played last March and it gets a nosebleed from the lofty expectations and can't handle the hype. Not only does Duke put it all together but Carolina does, too, which leaves the Wolfpack last in the Triangle (again) and one of the first teams out of the NCAA tournament.

X-factor: Gottfried won't ask the world of forward Jordan Vandenberg but there are going to be games when the coach needs quality minutes from the 7-footer, especially against teams with size.

Vandenberg redshirted last season, after only playing in seven games. Given the lack of frontcourt depth, and the propensity of the starters to get into foul trouble, Vandenberg will get his opportunity to contribute, especially on the defensive end.

Where to attack: Neither Leslie nor Richard Howell are classic big men and their quickness can be neutralized with length (and vice versa, hence the orgin of the "They gotta guard us, too, pal" line from Gottfried before the ACC tournament).

There's also the matter of foul trouble, which plagued both Howell and Leslie last season, and the unproven depth behind those two starters.

Also, as long as Scott Wood's on the floor, N.C. State won't see a zone defense, but when he's not out there, teams will invite the Pack to beat them from deep.

Magic number: 15. Wood's jersey number because he's the common factor in two key statistics from last season. The Pack went 10-0 when he made at least four 3-pointers and 20-5 when he scored at least 10 points.

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