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The Soft Bigotry of Lowe Expectations: An N.C. State Basketball Preview

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I admit, I'm having more fun thinking of the titles to these things than actually motivating myself to care about some of the teams.

Last Year: N.C. State fans were unhappy. The team, 22-10 on the season and 10-6 in the ACC, went two rounds deep in the NCAA's, the coach went somewhere he'd be appreciated, and the administration went on a torturously long search for his replacement.

The Sendek era ended with a team incredibly dependent on the three-pointer - 45.3% of their shots were from eyond the arc. (The team with next highest propensity for launching the three, Clemson, only tossed them up 38.4% of the time.) The Wolfpack put up UNC and Duke levels of points per possesion, but were scored on much more often than their Triangle brethren, and was comically poor at rebounding on both ends of the court.

Comings and Goings: Most of the rebounds the Wolfpack were able to grab fell into the hands of Cedric Simmons (11.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) who bolted to the pros after his sophomore season to be New Orleans' 15th overall pick. Also heading for the exits were seniors small forward Cameron Brennerman (14.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg), power forward (and brother of Vasco) Ilian Evtimov (10.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg), and guard Tony Bethel (9.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg). And if the cupboard wasn't already bare, Andrew Brackman's (7.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg) decision to play baseball exclusively didn't help. Nor for that matter, did signed recruit Larry Davis backing out to head to Seton Hall.

So what's left? There's the backcourt leader, Engin Atsur (10.8 ppg, 3.4 apg) who's been hurt through the preseason, but expected back soon, and Gavin Grant (8.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg) at forward has been shouldering most of the load, with 26 points and 8 rebounds in the Pack's first exhibition game.

Everyone else is either brand new to Raleigh or unknown enough to make it seem that way. The lone senior, Bryan Nieman is both a transfer and a walk-on recently promoted to scholarship status. He only saw playing time in five games last season, but has been getting more preseason time in light of Atsur's injury. Also new to significant playing time are center Ben McCauley (2.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg), who will have to pick up the lion's share of N.C. State's rebounding gap, and Courtney Fells (2.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg) upon who a lot of the defensive hopes rest.

The freshman class won't be expected to do much, unless you count last year's redshirt Brandon Costner, probably the highest-profile recruit still at State, who will be expected to do a fair amount down low along Grant and McCauley. Trevor Ferguson could see some playing time at shooting guard, but the Pitt transfer won't be eligible to play until mid-December.

The Outlook: Of course, there's the most important rookie of all - Coach Sidney Lowe. It's tough to guess what style of play he can go with, and that mystery might be the Wolfpack's biggest advantage. They don't have the depth to run the fast-paced games now en vogue in college basketball, but he'll need to coax much better defensive and rebounding performances out of his team to play a slow, deliberate game. Either way, N.C. State is bereft of talent in a well-stocked league. Luckily the fanbase seems willing to give him the time to find his feet and bring in his players. Until then, it looks to be a long season for the folks in Raleigh.

(All right, the mp3 doesn't really relate to N.C. State's season, but just listen to it. Wolpack fans, how is this song not already in rotation on the scoreboard of the Taj Mahockey? If you guys play the last third of this song at every game, the crowd noise it inspires alone will get you two more wins on the season you'd get otherwise, I promise you.)

Bonus Herb Sendek Preview: He's looking at high expectations - but not N.C. State high, and a difficult system to teach to an unheralded group of players - but not N.C. State unheralded. Expect him to have a better season than his successor Lowe this year, but whether or not the long term success will make State fans regret this summer's adventure remains to be seen. (Actually it won't. State fans will never regret Sendek leaving. And they'll always despise AD Fowler. Whether they'll enjoy the Lowe Era is what's still up in the air.)

  • Preseason Poll Finish: 9th. I think Herb can push them to 8th, though.
  • Carolina March Forecast: 6-12 in conference. NIT bound.