Tuesday, October 30, 2012

ACC Preview: NC State Breaks Out From UNC/Duke Shadow

The long wait will soon be over when the first official NCAA basketball game of the 2012-13 season will tip-off on Nov. 15. Some of our favorite players have moved on the ranks of professional athletes, new recruits have been polishing their games in gyms with recognizable logos on the court, and schools have switched conference allegiances. Through a series of conference previews, the BDD crew will do its best to prepare you for the next 4.5 months of collegiate hoops.

C.J. Leslie and the Wolfpack are the favorites to take down Duke and UNC for the ACC crown. (heraldsun.com)

Favorite: NC State
It's hard to imagine an ACC preview without Duke or UNC as the favorite. Don't stress, tobacco road fans, Duke and UNC will be squarely in the hunt for the title, but it would be ignorant to overlook what NC State is entering the season with. The Wolfpack gained a lot of attention last year during their run to the Sweet 16, when it took the national runner-up Kansas to end NC State's season. NC State has long been in the shadows of its in-state foes UNC and Duke, but now has the talent and depth to make a run at the ACC crown. The Wolfpack are long and quick and led by juniors C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown and senior Richard Howell. Add freshman Rodney Purvis, who is expected to make an impact early, and NC State has a good chance to own the state of North Carolina and the ACC in 2012-13.

Dark Horse Team to Watch: Florida State
Florida State had been known for playing spoiler and getting a signature conference win as it tried to move up into the top half of the ACC. Last year, FSU showed it was ready to compete with the big boys, knocking off Duke in Cameron - one of the most hostile home environments in the country - and obliterating UNC at home 90-57 on its way to a 12-4 conference record (and winning the ACC Tournament over UNC) and going 25-10 overall last season. Senior Michael Snaer is the superstar of this team, but having guard and second leading scorer Ian Miller back should take some of the scoring pressure of him. FSU has a pretty light non-conference schedule to find its style and chemistry before the gauntlet of ACC play begins.

Player of the Year: Michael Snaer (Florida State)
Many are handing this award to C.J. Leslie, and that is a hard pick to argue. However, NC State has several talented scorers who will be battling each other for shots, whereas Michael Snaer is FSU's No. 1 and go-to scorer. Snaer didn't drop huge, 30-point games on opponents last year, but he was consistent and effective, especially against the best competition. Snaer had seven 20-point games last season, including a season-high 23 against Clemson. Against the ACC powers (Duke and UNC) Snaer scored 17 points (along with five rebounds and three assists) in the UNC blowout and 18 points in the ACC Championship game against UNC. He also scored 48 points in three games against Duke. At 6-foot-5, Snaer is also an excellent rebounder for a guard (averaging nearly four per game). Expect him to find larger scoring totals this year, while also continuing his consistency.

Coach of the Year: Roy Williams (UNC)
The saying at UNC - along with other powerhouse programs who contend for titles every year - is that they don't rebuild, they reload. Roy Williams will put this saying to the test, and if he succeeds, it will be one of the best coaching jobs in the country. UNC didn't just lose a NBA-lottery-pick talent; it lost four. How do you respond by losing Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall? You do it by trusting the guys who have experience as role players and had to practice against them every day last year will now be ready to take on the load. That means sophomores James Michael McAdoo - who some are saying will be the ACC Player of the Year - and P.J. Hairston, junior Reggie Bullock and senior Dexter Strickland will be asked to step up, which they should do well. Roy has done this before and will make sure his team remains in contention for a conference title.

Newcomer of the Year: Rodney Purvis (NC State) 
UCONN, Ohio State and Missouri couldn't pull the Raleigh, NC, native and No. 20 recruit on the ESPN 100 away from his hometown team, which is a testament to the product building at NC State. Purvis' body and style - quick and tall - fits in well with the Wolfpack's game plan. The scouting report on ESPN says Purvis is a true wing scorer who has no trouble getting to the basket, although he still needs to improve his jump shot. This looks like a match made in heaven for NC State, which could lead to Purvis having a breakout year as a freshman.

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