Don't bury NC State just yet

Despite slow start, Wolfpack's defense offers lots of upside

Updated: December 4, 2012, 2:09 PM ET
By John Gasaway | Basketball Prospectus

James Michael McAdoo, Richard HowellKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRichard Howell's defensive presence is one very big reason the Wolfpack still have plenty of upside.

The story so far in 2012-13 with the North Carolina State Wolfpack is usually going to be told like this:

Mark Gottfried's team entered the season not only ranked No. 6 in the nation, but the squad was also picked by the ACC's coaches to win the league and finish above a certain rather well-known duo of nearby storied programs in Duke and North Carolina. Fans in Raleigh were pretty excited, and indeed the enthusiasm surrounding NC State in the preseason was off the proverbial charts. But the Wolfpack stumbled early, losing to Oklahoma State and Michigan, not to mention beating UNC Asheville by just two points in Raleigh. Now Gottfried's team sits at 4-2, and it's ranked No. 25. What an incredible disappointment!

You could also, however, tell the same story like this:

The venerable program that brought us David Thompson, Jim Valvano and the miraculous 1983 national championship game fell into a rut of mediocrity not so long ago and missed five consecutive NCAA tournaments between 2007 and 2011. Then Gottfried rolled into town. Now suddenly recruiting is going great, NC State has a 2012 Sweet 16 appearance in its back pocket, and you'll currently find the Wolfpack sporting a Pomeroy rating that's higher than anything since Julius Hodge's heyday in 2004-05. What an incredible turnaround!

As you've probably guessed, you can sign me up for the latter version of this story. My opinion heading into the season was that Duke is the best team in the ACC, but you know what? We haven't seen any ACC games yet, Richard Howell might be having a breakout senior season (if such a thing exists), and 6-foot-8 freshman T.J. Warren has been fantastic. The expectations surrounding this team at the beginning of the season were out of line, but the key words there are "at the beginning of the season."

I therefore propose we start from scratch and take a fresh look at this team. Here's what I'm seeing: