2009-10 record: 20-16 overall, 5-11 ACC (11th)
Postseason: NIT (1-1, lost to UAB)
Projected starting lineup: G Javier Gonzalez, G Lorenzo Brown, F C.J. Leslie, F Tracy Smith, F Rich Howell
• Level playing field
With the addition of freshmen C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown to a core of Tracy Smith, Scott Wood, Rich Howell and Javier Gonzalez, N.C. State has as many functional parts as any team in the league.
You could never write that sentence under Les Robinson and maybe only once or twice under Herb Sendek (2003-04, i.e. the year of the "Matt Freije Meltdown", was arguably his best roster).
That means Sidney Lowe has put himself in position, in Year 5, to win games not by fluke but by simply being better than the other team. That's a major step up from any position he's operated under in his professional career, going all the way back to some bad NBA teams in Vancouver and Minnesota.
Brown and Leslie have the ability to play multiple positions which adds a flexibility to the program. Brown can handle the ball, shoot and create his own shot. Leslie can defend the "four" and play the "three."
One of the freshmen guards can be on the floor with Gonzalez and move him off the ball, where he has proven to be an effective 3-point shooter.
Wood should get more space to do what he does best (hit shots) while not having to defend the other team's best forward (although he still can).
There are options for Lowe, which, of course, is both good and bad, because he has shown a propensity to do too much with his rotation for too long during the season, but at least he has options.
• Light bulb
It's dangerous to extrapolate too much from the end of one season to the beginning of another, but the way State finished 2009-10 — with six wins in nine games and an emphasis on defense and decision-making — suggests the light has finally clicked. A "Oh, so this is how we have to play to win" kind of epiphany for a group that returns three starters and loses really only one valuable piece (Dennis Horner).
It was not an accident that State went 6-1 down the stretch when it held an opponent under 70 points.
• Turning potential into reality
Lowe's in a delicate position because he needs to win now to keep his job but he also needs to tread carefully with this team.
For the better part of two years, we've all heard how good this class is — including the current players — so there will be a natural tension between the returning players and the new ones.
That tension doesn't have to be combustible, the way the 2007-08 roster was, but the situation needs to be managed carefully lest it turn into the sequel of "Nightmare on Hickson-Costner-McCauley-Grant Street."
Gonzalez has given his blood and guts to the program, paying his dues early in his career in some trying and overmatched situations, and developing into a productive (yet still erratic) ACC player. How will he mesh with Harrow and Brown?
Wood was the only player to start every game last season, as a freshman no less. How will he handle coming off the bench, if that's how the lineup shakes out?
Smith was the center of this team's universe last season and had the numbers (16.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg) to prove it. How will he handle not being options 1 through 4? His touches are going to be reduced, is that going to be a problem?
This is both a plus and minus because with six games against Duke, UNC and Florida State, N.C. State's RPI certainly won't be lacking but the conference record could be.
The good news is Georgia Tech, in a similar situation last year, went 7-9 in the ACC and got into the NCAA tournament (they did reach the ACC tournament final, though, keep in mind) while Virginia Tech went 10-6 and watched the NCAA tournament on TV because it didn't have enough wins (or games) against the top ACC teams.
Lowe compiled a 79-229 record in parts of five NBA seasons. His ACC record is 20-44 at N.C. State. He has been quick to point out the discrepancy in talent between his teams and his competition.
That's no longer the case and if he doesn't win enough this season, it will be his last head coaching job for the foreseeable future.
That could be construed as pressure or a challenge. It's up to Lowe to decide which one it will be in what promises to be as interesting of a season since Jim Valvano's last.
Lowe will have to manage the roster, and egos, better than he has previously but the way the 2009-10 season finished suggests this team is ready to listen and continue its progress from March.
Given the schedule, it will be difficult for this team to win 10 ACC games but a 9-7 record is there for the taking if the right buttons are pushed.
|F Tracy Smith||Sr.||16.5||7.3||1.1|
|G Javier Gonzalez||Sr.||9.5||3.3||3.7|
|G Scott Wood||Soph.||7.8||2.9||1.4|
|F Rich Howell||Soph.||4.9||4.6||0.6|
|G C.J. Williams||Jr.||4.3||2.6||1.3|
|F DeShawn Painter||Soph.||1.6||1.2||0.0|
|F Jordan Vandenberg||Soph.||1.0||1.8||0.2|
|F Dennis Horner||11.9||4.9||1.4|
|G Farnold Degand||5.5||2.4||2.5|
|G Julius Mays (transfer)||4.6||1.2||1.6|
|F Josh Davis (transfer)||2.6||1.7||0.5|
|F Johnny Thomas (transfer)||0.8||0.9||0.2|
|F C.J. Leslie||Fr.||6-8||190||11|
|G Ryan Harrow||Fr.||5-11||155||25|
|G Lorenzo Brown||Fr.||6-4||175||28*|
Note: Brown's rank from the class of 2009.
Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep, scout.com:
Harrow: "A trickster with the ball and a major threat to find the bottom of the net. He has work to do in the weight room but what he lacks in strength he makes up for in swagger. The Pack needed a guy to get buckets and he's at the front of the line to provide the punch."
Brown: "Don't be surprised if he becomes the primary offensive decision maker. He's physically ready, can score it in his own right and may be most ready to handle the decision-making as a freshman. Either way, he and Harrow are a super 1-2 tandem."
Leslie: "End to end, he's as athletic as they come plus he gives the Pack a helpside shot blocker, above the rim player and forward who can create his own offense. He's the perfect complement to Tracy Smith."
2009-10 record: 15-16 overall, 5-11 ACC (ninth)
Projected starting lineup: G Jontel Evans, G Sammy Zeglinski, F K.T. Harrell, F Mike Scott, F James Johnson
• Tony Bennett can flat-out coach
Liked Tony Bennett before his first season at Virginia, liked him when he started 5-2 and even liked him when he finished 0-9. Dude can coach and in the ACC, that puts you in front of two-thirds of your peers.
Bennett had some success early, notably at N.C. State and UNC's expense, and then struggled after Feb. 3. In the ACC tournament, you saw Bennett's real value, getting a team, minus its best player and after nine straight losses, to remain tuned in. UVa won one tournament game and came within two baskets of winning another (against Duke, no less).
Now that Bennett has thinned out some of the weeds from the roster, Bennett's on the brink of making Virginia basketball relevant again.
• Recruiting bonus
UNC, Duke and N.C. State all landed higher-profile players but of the six that Bennett signed, two figure to start — wing K.T. Harrell and forward James Johnson — and the others all fit Bennett's pragmatic, hard-nosed style.
With Sylven Landesberg, the team's leading scorer (17.3 ppg), failing out of school, and wings Jeff Jones and Tristan Spurlock transferring, the Cavaliers are going to need their freshmen to play early and play well.
Senior forward Mike Scott and junior guard Sammy Zeglinski will provide veteran leadership but you get the sense from Bennett that last year was an audition and he found a bunch of "Solid Gold" dancers but no actual stars.
Bennett will add the leading roles through recruiting and typically an overhaul of program takes more than two years.
Even if Johnson and Harrell are good, there's just not a lot behind them. A roster with Mustapha Farrakhan, Will Sherrill and Assane Sene doesn't exactly scream "Final Four."
Be patient, UVa fans (and I know you have been), because there's going to be a payoff in Bennett but it's going to take some time.
This class was a great start and he'll mine more talent, but in the interim, there's going to be a learning curve and it figures to bend at about five or six ACC wins.
|F Mike Scott||Sr.||12.0||7.2||1.2|
|G Sammy Zeglinski||Jr.||8.9||3.8||2.6|
|G Mustapha Farrakhan||Sr.||6.5||1.7||2.0|
|F Will Sherrill||Sr.||3.0||3.0||0.5|
|G Jontel Evans||Soph.||2.4||1.5||1.9|
|F Assane Sene||Jr.||1.6||3.6||0.2|
|G Sylven Landesberg (NBA)||17.3||4.9||2.9|
|G Jeff Jones (transfer)||7.3||1.3||0.4|
|F Jerome Meyinsse||6.5||4.1||0.4|
|G Calvin Baker||3.0||1.2||1.9|
|F Tristan Spurlock (transfer)||2.4||0.8||0.1|
|G K.T. Harrell||Fr.||6-3||170||36|
|F James Johnson||Fr.||6-8||210||37|
|G Billy Baron||Fr.||6-1||185||—|
|F Akil Mitchell||Fr.||6-7||200||—|
|G Joe Harris||Fr.||6-5||200||—|
|F Will Regan||Fr.||6-8||215||—|
Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep, scout.com:
Harrell: "UVA must replace its wing scoring and Harrell will get his chance to earn the shots Landesberg left behind. A late bloomer, he was a priority SEC recruit that got away."
Johnson: "We're higher on him than most and its because of his work ethic, developing frame, athleticism and scoring tools. He's an early starter and reports out of Charlottesville are that he's ready to impact as a freshman which is in line with our evaluation."
Baron: "When Tony Bennett looks in the mirror he sees a version of Billy Baron. An overachieving gym rat, Baron is the son of a coach, brother of a shooter and combo guard."
Harris: "Bennett recruited him to be a sniper and student. He's equipped to be both and he could be UVA's designated zone buster."
Regan: "He's blue collar all the way. The cerebral insider knows the value of hardwork in the paint and he's a max effort role player for the Cavs."
Mitchell: "He's the guy who's going to have to work the hardest to crack the rotation. Mitchell has a nice touch to mid-range. To get freshman PT he'll have to find a niche and that means getting stronger from the perimeter and in the weight room."
2009-10 record: 15-16 overall, 6-10 ACC (eighth)
Projected starting lineup: G Reggie Jackson, G Dallas Elmore, F Joe Trapani, F Corey Raji, F Josh Southern
• New coach
After Boston College quit against Virginia in the opening ACC tournament game — four days after quitting in the second half against N.C. State — it was obvious the Eagles either had to get rid of the coach or their entire roster.
Boston College AD Gene DeFilippo took the path of least resistance and fired Al Skinner, despite seven NCAA tournament appearances in 10 years and a school-record 247 wins.
Enter Steve Donahue, who took Cornell to the Round of 16 in 2010 and three straight NCAA trips. (And don't dismiss that accomplishment as "Oh, it's the Ivy League," because before Donahue got there, Cornell hadn't won an Ivy title since 1988.)
Under Donahue, Cornell led the country in 3-point field goal percentage and ranked third in 3-pointers per game last season. Given how many coaches in the ACC attempt to win with defense and play at a glacial pace, Donahue gives BC a different and promising perspective.
• Reggie Jackson and Joe Trapani
With seven scholarship players on the roster, and zero freshmen as of June 29, Donahue's options are limited for his first team. In guard Reggie Jackson and forward Joe Trapani, he has at least has two players who will excel in his up-tempo, perimeter-based system.
Given the transfer of Rakim Sanders, it doesn't take much imagination to project Jackson (12.9 ppg last year) and Trapani (14.1 ppg) to be in for big statistical seasons.
• Tough transition
It's not quite as jarring as Nebraska football going to the West Coast offense, but BC's in for a difficult transition with a roster of players built for Skinner's physical, halfcourt grind going to an up-tempo scheme.
Even Jackson and Trapani are inconsistent from the 3-point line, where Cornell made its living.
• Dry well
Skinner had a knack for finding and winning with players overlooked in the recruiting process (Craig Smith, Jared Dudley, Tyrese Rice). He understood how to develop players for his system but not necessarily how to coach within the 40-minute walls of the game.
He got lazy, beat or both on the recruiting trail in his final two classes, adding zero players in 2009 and having the one he signed in 2010 (Kevin Noreen) skip town with him. It's tough to sustain a program's success when you aren't adding any players.
It's likely that Donahue will still add freshmen to this roster but he's obviously picking from the scrap heap.
DeFilippo made a good hire and it's going to work out in the long run but BC is in for some Steve Carell-hot-wax pain this season.
The Eagles are going to take a bunch of 3s and they have a roster built for a flex offense, which doesn't preclude good 3-point shooters, but it's not predicated on them, either.
The Eagles will definitely finish with fewer wins than scholarship players. Four, maybe five, seems about the level best that anyone could in this situation.
|F Joe Trapani||Sr.||14.1||6.4||1.3|
|G Reggie Jackson||Jr.||12.9||5.7||4.5|
|F Corey Raji||Sr.||11.4||5.8||1.0|
|G Biko Paris||Sr.||4.8||2.0||4.1|
|F Josh Southern||Sr.||4.4||3.2||0.8|
|G Dallas Elmore||Jr.||3.9||1.6||0.6|
|F Cortney Dunn||Jr.||3.2||2.7||0.5|
|F Rakim Sanders (transfer)||11.3||3.7||2.1|
|F Tyler Roche||7.2||2.4||0.7|
|G Brady Heslip (transfer)||DNP|
2009-10 record: 20-11 overall, 9-7 ACC (fifth)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament (1-1, lost to Kentucky)
Projected starting lineup: G Tony Chennault, G C.J. Harris, F Ari Stewart, F Tony Woods, F Carson Derosiers
In Tony Woods (6-11), Ty Walker (7-foot), Carson Derosiers (6-11) and Melvin Tabb (6-8), the Deacs have plenty of size to go around.
The quality of that size is debatable, but you know what they say, "You can't teach size."
Wake's still waiting for Woods and Walker to meet their potential. It wouldn't be surprising to see Derosiers, a freshman from New Hampshire, be a starter from Day One.
• Sophomore hope
C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart were being groomed as the leaders of this team by former coach Dino Gaudio. New coach Jeff Bzdelik will likely keep Harris and Stewart in prominent roles.
Despite some bumpy patches, particularly at the end of the season, both were productive as freshman and should be better because of that experience.
• Guard play
Harris was a pleasant surprise last season, adding 9.9 points per game as a freshman, but his role is going to change dramatically.
Instead of hitting the occasional outside shot, handling the ball some in the halfcourt set and playing solid defense, he's going to have to be the best guard on the team.
Will he be good enough to be Ish Smith and C.J. Harris? He might have to be because it's possible Tony Chennault's not ready to be a starting ACC point guard (and it's possible that a new coach who didn't recruit Chennault doesn't want him to be a starting ACC point guard).
The other options at guard are limited. Senior Gary Clark is supposed to be a shooter but hasn't been a factor in three seasons. J.T. Terrell's jump shot should help but ballhandling is not exactly his bag.
You can bet if we (the media and fans) are asking, "Who's Jeff Bzdelik?" than the players are, too. Bzdelik has been in the NBA or out west in the college game for the better part of 20 years. The players recruited by Gaudio likely felt some loyalty to him after experiencing the success that they did together in the past three years.
Problem for Bzdelik is this was going to be a transition year for Wake, who lost Al-Farouq Aminu to the NBA draft, a year after losing Jeff Teague and James Johnson, regardless of the coach.
He has been put in a tough spot, albeit with low expectations, for his first season.
Wake lost its best player, a four-year starting point guard and two other starters from an NCAA tournament team that won nine ACC games.
Wake AD Ron Wellman knew this would be a rebuilding year and instead of letting Gaudio burn, he decided to start over with a new coach. That's not a bad premise but he took a risk in hiring a 57-year-old with little connection, at least recruiting-wise, to the region.
Maybe Bzdelik, a coach well-versed in the finer points of the game's strategy from years as a scout in the NBA, can pull a rabbit from his hat. Maybe the freshmen are better than advertised. Maybe Harris and Stewart are ready to be leaders. Maybe Woods and Walker are ready to live up to their prep billing.
Maybe, maybe, maybe sounds a lot like last place to me.
|G C.J. Harris||Soph.||9.9||1.8||1.2|
|F Ari Stewart||Soph.||7.3||3.2||0.3|
|F Tony Woods||Jr.||4.6||3.2||0.1|
|G Gary Clark||Sr.||3.2||0.6||0.2|
|F Ty Walker||Jr.||1.9||1.4||0.1|
|F Al-Farouq Aminu (NBA)||15.8||10.7||1.3|
|G Ish Smith||13.2||4.9||6.0|
|G L.D. Williams||8.7||5.6||1.8|
|F Chas McFarland||7.2||7.0||0.8|
|F David Weaver||2.6||2.1||0.2|
|F Carson Desrosiers||Fr.||6-11||225||41|
|F Travis McKie||Fr.||6-6||180||54|
|G J.T. Terrell||Fr.||6-3||175||65|
|F Melvin Tabb||Fr.||6-8||210||—|
|G Tony Chennault||Fr.||6-1||170||—|
|F Nikita Meschcharakou (transfer)||Jr.||6-7||215||—|
Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep, scout.com:
Desrosiers: "This is Bzdelik's kind of guy. Carson's skilled, smart, tall and can stroke it. He'll be tougher inside in time and the offense should be an exact match to his talents. We feel he's a major ACC sleeper who went under-ranked by others."
Terrell: "A volume scorer in high school, Terrell's jump shot will bring back memories of bombers Archie Miller and J.J. Redick (and his range extends beyond both). The biggest transition will come in shot selection where he'll have to dial it back a bit. Wired up to score and athletic to boot, he's the ' X factor.' "
McKie: "It won't take long for him to be a crowd favorite. McKie has the smile, plays with bounce in the lane and spent the last three years worried about his ranking. All that is in the past and he'll be a leader and contributor from the start."
Chennault: "Fresh off a storied high school career, Chennault has the Philly edge to his game. He's going to play and challenge for minutes early especially if he can defend. Frankly, we aren't sure exactly how his game will translate but he's one of those guys that is tough to keep off the court. He's got a winner's background."
Photo credit: Ethan Hyman (N&O)