USA TODAY Sports
Akula Wolf of Backing the Pack was nice enough to answer some questions about NC State heading into tonight's game.
STS: Following last year's Sweet 16 run, you guys had pretty lofty expectations going into the season, debuting at number 6 in both major preseason polls as well as being tabbed the preseason ACC Champs. Do you think this team has done a good job of dealing with such high expectations? Do you think this team deserved such high expectations?
Backing the Pack: In hindsight, no, the team did not deserve those expectations. They've looked the part of a top-10 team at times, and I thought their effort to rally at Michigan was very encouraging, but they haven't consistently played like an elite team. Defense has been a major issue throughout the season.
NC State wasn't deep last season, but its secondary contributors--C.J. Williams, Alex Johnson, DeShawn Painter--were all veterans. They've been replaced by freshmen, and I think that's why the Pack's defense is worse this season. It's the defensive end that's keeping this group from becoming a top-10 team.
STS: How can a team beat Duke but also lose to Oklahoma State by 20?
Backing the Pack: You got me. College sports, man.
STS: How wold you rate the performance of your top guys? Are Leslie, Wood, Howell, and Brown playing well enough for this year's squad to make another run in March?
Backing the Pack: They've been good, Richard Howell especially. Howell is scoring the ball more efficiently than he ever has, and he's still a fantastic rebounder at both ends of the floor. His foul rate is the lowest of his career, which has been a key as well.
Brown and Leslie are as talented as anybody in the league, but they have these hilariously bizarre runs of stupidity that costs the team points. They also can take over games. It's hard to know what to expect from them on a game-to-game basis, but we're used to that by now.
Scott Wood is the same as he ever was--forget about him and he'll kill you from three-point range. His game hasn't really expanded much, so he will disappear for stretches because he can't create his own shot. He does a good job of moving without the ball, though, and he inevitably finds some looks.
This foundation is definitely enough to propel NC State to another run in the NCAA tournament.
STS: Your top four scorers are all upperclassmen. Do you view this year or the next two years as your last chance of the foreseeable future to make a big splash in March, or are you confident in Gottfried's ability to reload?
Backing the Pack: Mark Gottfried continues to recruit really well, but he's no John Calipari, obviously. I'm not really sure what we can expect next year, but without question, losing this core is going to hurt a lot. I don't know that next year's team is an NCAA tournament team. It'll be talented but very thin and very young. Transfers have hurt State's future prospects. The program is in dire need of some useful depth.
STS: And lastly, I couldn't do this Q and A without asking: How crazy do you have to be to storm a court in a wheelchair?
Backing the Pack: Extremely crazy. Especially if you are in the first wave, which guarantees that you're going to be squished by other people. Will Privette admitted that it was the dumbest thing he's done in college, but he added that it was worth it. And I totally understand that.
Fortunately C.J. Leslie was in the right place to help him out, and they can laugh about it now.