WINSTON SALEM NC - FEBRUARY 13: C.J. Leslie #5 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack dunks the ball against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at Lawrence Joel Coliseum on February 13 2011 in Winston Salem North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Mark Gottfried replaced Sidney Lowe after an extremely disappointing 5 year stint. Sidney Lowe was a terrible head coach. His teams looked like they were playing streetball. There was absolutely no cohesion. But the one thing Sidney Lowe was able to do during his time in Raleigh was stockpile talent. Even after losing their starting PG to transfer (Ryan Harrow) and top post player to graduation (Tracy Smith), NC State still sports a starting 5 with NCAA Tournament caliber talent. And don't expect that talent to drop off anytime soon because Gottfried is a very good recruiter. NC State has the #7 ranked 2012 recruiting class in the country.
The Wolfpack have a very balanced scoring attack with 5 players averaging in double figures, ranging from 13.8 to 11 ppg. CJ Leslie is the leading scorer. The sophomore forward is very talented and athletic. His on court attitude seems to have changed under Gottfried and his motor is running better as a result. He has the versatility to play some on the wing, but is primarily a 4. He uses his athleticism to make up for his lack of bulk (listed 6'8 and 208 lbs). He seems like he is on a pogo stick because he is so quick off the floor.
Lorenzo Brown made the transition from 2-guard to PG when Harrow left for Kentucky. I wasn't sure how that would turn out because he seemed like a natural 2, but he's actually done very well play PG. He averages 12.3 ppg and 6.4 assists per game. I am surprised by how well he distributes it, but he does a very good job of keep his head up on dribble drives. Watching Brown play, he almost lulls you to sleep. He tends to coast at half speed, and just when you become complacent he turns on another gear and will blow by you.
I tend to preview at least 3 guys on the opposing team whenever I do a preview. I thought about Scott Wood as the 3rd guy for this week, but I don't think what he does is a mystery. He's sharpshooter from distance. There isn't much else. Therefore, I'd like to present to you Richard Howell. The guy is a monster on backboards. He pulls down 9.3 rpg while also scoring 11 ppg. He is 3rd in the conference in defensive rebound pct and 4th in the conference in offensive rebound pct. Booker has to get a body on him and keep him for getting underneath the hoop. Howell isn't a jumper in the same way Booker is, but he is old school in the way that he is able to use his body to get optimal position. Clemson has struggled at times clearing the defensive glass and I'd be lying if I said that Howell didn't worry me. 2nd chance opportunities are the best way to get open looks. And with Scott Wood looming around the perimeter, Howell could provide a back breaker.
As good as NC State has been this year, I actually feel relatively confident. We've played well on our home court. And although NC State has a talent advantage, they aren't a very deep team. They only go 7 deep. At the end of the game Clemson should have fresher legs.
Game starts at 2:30 on the ACC Network.