Commentary

Don't give ACC to NC State just yet

Updated: June 18, 2012, 11:50 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Hold the presses my friends.

NC State is a preseason top 10 team, but there are some Wolfpack fans who want to give the team the ACC trophy before the first game is played.

Down in Raleigh, there is excitement galore as fans of the Wolfpack believe that Mark Gottfried's team is a legit favorite to win the ACC. My friends, NC State has a superstar returning in C.J. Leslie, and Scott Wood is an outstanding long-range shooter. Joining the experienced nucleus is an outstanding group of diaper dandies, led by Rodney Purvis. How good is Mr. Purvis? He recently made the USA under-18 team that is being coached by Billy Donovan and competing in Brazil.

[+] EnlargeCJ Leslie
AP Photo/Jay LaPrete C.J. Leslie is a big reason why NC State heads into the 2012-13 season as ACC favorites.

NC State made some noise last season, pushing North Carolina to the wire in the ACC tournament. Then came wins over San Diego State and Georgetown before a tough, three-point setback against Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk, Bill Self's Kansas team. That squad ended up playing for the national championship, losing to the 'Cats of Kentucky.

Now NC State has built up expectation, expectation, expectation. Many will look at the Wolfpack as the team to beat in the Triangle, as I said, a legit top 10 squad based on returning talent and newcomers.

Give coach Gottfried a ton of credit. He has brought back the energy and enthusiasm to the program. He has rallied the fans into a frenzy. Gottfried left the TV booth and returned to the sideline, and in a short time, he has built a winner.

But before everybody gives the conference trophy away, watch out for traditional threats North Carolina and Duke. They will have something to say, and they will be better than people believe. The Tar Heels are being written off by some since Hall of Famer Roy Williams lost so much talent to the NBA draft. It is not easy to replace the likes of Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall. Fans in Chapel Hill will still see a lot of ability on the court, though some feel it will be a down year in Chapel Hill.

It all starts with James Michael McAdoo, who showed glimpses of his ability during the NCAA tournament. He has the potential to have a breakthrough season. Remember that the Tar Heels return a pair of key guards who were plagued by injuries last season. Williams is happy to have Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland back in the lineup.

[+] EnlargeNorth Carolina's James Michael McAdoo
Scott Rovak/US PRESSWIREJames Michael McAdoo is the biggest returning star for the Tar Heels.

Other veterans such as Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston will have greater responsibility. There is also an outstanding recruiting class joining the Tar Heels. J.P. Tokoto, Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James could contribute early on in their collegiate careers. There is a lot of potential in that quartet of diaper dandies.

Down at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski and his squad may have something to say in the ACC race, even though Austin Rivers opted for the pros and Miles Plumlee is gone. The Blue Devils return a healthy Ryan Kelly, who was missing when the team was upset in the big dance by Lehigh.

Look at the roster, and there are some other athletes and experienced players available. Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are back in Durham. The Dukies also have a solid group coming in, including guard Rasheed Sulaimon and forward Amile Jefferson out of the City of Brotherly Love. Let's remember that Duke was a No. 2 seed in the big dance last season.

The Blue Devils and Tar Heels certainly have outstanding coaching. Krzyzewski and Williams are Hall of Famers for a reason.

There should be a lot of fun down on Tobacco Road in the season ahead. Don't write in NC State quite yet. The Wolfpack will be the favorite, but this will be a race!

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.