17.7 Points returning: N.C. State led the ACC in scoring (77.4 points per game) last season and ranked ninth in the country in Ken Pomeroys tempo-free efficiency ratings. C.J. Leslie (15.1), Richard Howell (12.7), Scott Wood (12.6) and Lorenzo Brown (12.4) were the top four scorers a year ago and coach Mark Gottfried has to start over without them.
• Go-to guy: Sophomore forward T.J. Warren had five games of 20 points or more, including 31 in a home win over Florida State. He also had five games with three points or less. The challenge for Warren, who will play both inside and on the wing, will be to produce consistently.
• Impact rookie: Junior guard Desmond Lee put up big numbers at New Mexico Junior College (20.1 points per game, 5.1 rebounds) and the Wolfpack will need his versatility on the perimeter. Lee can shoot, rebound and handle the ball. He will also be counted on to provide defensive pressure.
• Best case: Gottfrieds mentor, Jim Harrick, got Georgia an at-large bid in the 2001 NCAA tournament with just 16 wins. Given the strength of N.C. States schedule, thats probably the ceiling for this group but the right combination and huge seasons from Warren, Lee and LSU transfer Ralston Turner just might push the team into the field.
• Worst case: There are too many tests out of the ACC, not enough wins in the league, especially against a brutal road schedule, and no inside game develops to take the pressure off the perimeter scorers, which would leave the Wolfpack with a dozen wins and a losing record.
• X-factor: Without Leslie and Howell, Gottfried needs help inside. Senior forward Jordan Vandenberg was expected to provide some stability, sort of in the Serge Zwikker/Brian Zoubek blueprint, but he will miss four to six weeks with an ankle injury. Freshman forward BeeJay Anya has the skill set to help but he needs to get in better shape.
• Where to attack: The Packs smaller lineup combinations will have trouble defending the rim. Scoring from the paint might be a challenge for anyone other than Warren.
Sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis, Lee and Turner might collectively be better outside shooters than last years perimeter group, but theyre going to have to prove it, especially when teams overload on Warren.
• Magic number: 6. Six of the nine scholarship players have never played a game for N.C. State.
Nov. 8: Appalachian State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 12: at Cincinnati, 5 p.m.
Nov. 16: Campbell, 7 p.m.
Nov. 20: N.C. Central, 7 p.m.
Nov. 26: Florida Gulf Coast, 7 p.m.
Nov. 30: Eastern Kentucky
Dec. 4: Northwestern, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 7: Long Beach State, 2 p.m.
Dec. 14: Detroit, 6 p.m.
Dec. 18: at Tennessee, 7 p.m.
Dec. 21: East Carolina, noon
Dec. 28: Missouri, 8 p.m.
Dec. 30: at UNC Greensboro, 7 p.m.
Jan. 4: Pittsburgh, noon
Jan. 7: at Notre Dame, 9 p.m.
Jan. 11: Virginia, 5 p.m.
Jan. 15: at Wake Forest, 9 p.m.
Jan. 18: at Duke, 2 p.m.
Jan. 20: Maryland, 9 p.m.
Jan. 26: Georgia Tech, 1 p.m.
Jan. 29: Florida State, 9 p.m.
Feb. 1: at North Carolina, 2 p.m.
Feb. 8: at Miami, 2 p.m.
Feb. 11: Wake Forest, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15: at Syracuse, 3 p.m.
Feb. 18: at Clemson, 7 p.m.
Feb. 22: at Virginia Tech, 2 p.m.
Feb. 26: North Carolina, 8 p.m.
March 1: Miami, noon
March 3: at Pittsburgh, 9 p.m.
March 9: Boston College, 6 p.m.