NC State Basketball: 6 Bold Predictions for the Wolfpack's 2011-12 Season

Kenneth WilkinsContributor IINovember 22, 2011

NC State Basketball: 6 Bold Predictions for the Wolfpack's 2011-12 Season

0 of 6

    The future is clearly bright for NC State basketball, landing one of the top recruiting classes in the nation.

    But all that talent comes in next year. What about this year?

    The Wolfpack lost leading scorer Tracy Smith and welcome in a new head coach in Mark Gottfried.

    A lot of things have changed, but the nucleus is still there for a team that has not even begun to tap into its potential.

    If Gottfried had his way, these bold predictions about the Pack can happen this year.

C.J. Leslie Will Be First Team All-ACC

1 of 6

    Everyone knows the Pack goes as C.J. Leslie goes. Leslie is without a doubt one of biggest—if not the most–athletic force in the ACC.

    The key for Gottfried is keeping him engaged and motivated on every play and every possession. Leslie has only begun to tap into his freakish athletic abilities.

    Once he realizes he can take over and dominate a game at will, look for him to go on a rampage and average a double-double and make the first team All-ACC.

Richard Howell Will Have a Breakout Year

2 of 6

    C.J. Leslie is the go to guy for the Pack, but he can’t carry the load by himself.

    Ryan Wood gives the Pack the ability to stretch the floor with his outside shooting. However, the Pack will need another big body down low to compliment Leslie.

    This is where Richard Howell comes in.

    With Tracey Smith gone, look for Howell to break out offensively. Howell proved he could carry the load earlier this year, averaging a double-double during Leslie’s three-game suspension. 

Lead the ACC in Total Team Defense

3 of 6

    Defense was not in the Wolfpack vocabulary last year. Many times last year, teams would push the Pack around and get to the basket at will.

    For the Pack to survive in this years’ ACC, the team must sell out defensively. Gottfried preaches a commitment to defense and it’s already starting to pay off.

    In the first four games this year, guard Lorenzo Brown has already posted 18 steals. Look for the Pack to lead the league in steals, points off turnovers and lowest opposing-team field goal percentage.

Pack Will Beat Duke and UNC

4 of 6

    To be the best you have to beat the best.

    Duke and UNC have dominated the ACC for the last 20 years. The shadow that Duke and UNC casts can be overwhelming and this NC State team is tired of being the third wheel on Tobacco Road.

    Gottfried’s intensity and zeal is exactly what the Pack needs to play up to its potential. With a newly found aggression and never-give-up attitude (ask Texas), look for the Pack to beat UNC at home and upset Duke at Cameron.

Finishes in the Top 4 of ACC

5 of 6

    You can go ahead and place Duke and UNC in the top two spots in the ACC, but spots three through 12 are anyone’s’ guess.

    Florida State is looking to capitalize after a solid finish last year, and Virginia and Miami seem to be much improved.

    Not much is expected for NC State this year being picked to finish eighth in the ACC preseason poll. However, if the Pack can stay healthy, take care of the basketball and play hard night in and night out, look for it to challenge for third or fourth place in the ACC.

NC State Makes the Sweet 16

6 of 6

    If C.J. Leslie plays up to his potential in every game, Richard Howell picks up the slack when Leslie has an off night, the team makes a commitment to play lockdown defense and prove they can beat Duke and UNC, look for the Pack to make it past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament and into the Sweet 16.

    They definitely have the talent to make it that far, but no one on the current roster has played in any NCAA Tournament games. Clearly everything has to fall into place for this to happen, but anything is possible.

    It is up to Gottfried to get the team to buy into what he is selling and put all the pieces together.