Pegged as the top team in the ACC to begin the season, the sixth-ranked NC State Wolfpack get things underway this evening, as they play host to the Miami-Ohio RedHawks at PNC Arena.
It isn't North Carolina or Duke that sits atop the preseason polls in the ACC, but rather Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack, who are coming off a highly successful 2011-12 campaign, Gottfried's first in Raleigh. NC State posted 24 victories last year, earned its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2006 and made a run to the Sweet 16. With a talented roster back in the fold, bigger and better things are expected in 2012-13.
The RedHawks come into this season under new management, as John Cooper takes over after three seasons at Tennessee State. Miami-Ohio finished a disappointing 9-21 a year ago and there is plenty of work to do in Oxford.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.
Cooper had some success at Tennessee State last year, most notably, upsetting previously unbeaten Murray State late in the year. Cooper's new team finished a distant 5-11 in the Mid-American Conference last season and must replace its top scorer from that squad. There isn't a whole lot of proven commodities on the roster. Quinten Rollins (7.7 ppg, 3.2 apg) is the only true point guard on the team, and he will be charged with running the up-tempo game that Cooper likes. The team does get guard Allen Roberts back as well as St. Francis transfer Will Felder (junior forward) on the floor this season. Roberts averaged 7.9 ppg as a sophomore before missing all of last season (knee). Felder hopefully gives the team a strong frontcourt presence after averaging 11.1 points, 6.7 boards, and 1.3 blocks per game for St. Francis (PA) prior to transferring. Juniors Jon Harris (8.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Drew McGhee (5.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg) could provide additional depth up front.
Mark Gottfried's second season in Raleigh could really be special. The Wolfpack showed signs of a much-improved team last year and their postseason experience could push them to greater heights in 2012-13. It certainly helps to bring back four of the team's five starters, all of which could garner All- ACC honors. Leading the way is ACC Player of the Year candidate Lorenzo Brown (12.7 ppg, 6.3 apg) at the point. One of the elite playmakers in the league. Brown can take over a game as both a scorer and facilitator. Forwards C.J. Leslie (14.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Richard Howell (10.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg) will dominate up front, while Scott Wood (12.4 ppg) adds scoring touch off the wing. If that weren't enough, Gottfried has some new toys with a trio of McDonald's All-Americans brought in. Tyler Lewis will be tasked with spelling Brown at the point, while Rodney Pulvis could develop into an elite scorer right away. The last of the trio is 6-8 forward T.J. Warren, who could get right into the fray as well.