|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
|Temple guard Jake O'Brien celebrates a big win over preseason ACC favorite NC State.|
Down in Raleigh, N.C., there were many expectations surrounding the NC State Wolfpack entering the season.
Mark Gottfried's team was projected as the favorite in the ACC. NC State was picked sixth nationally in both preseason polls. This was supposed to be a special season for the Wolfpack.
My friends, it turned out to be a major disappointment. NC State finished fourth in the ACC during the regular season. Then it lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Any shot of redemption for NC State came crashing down in the first half of a loss to Temple on Friday.
The Owls raced out to an early 12-4 lead. Temple built it up to 16 at halftime (38-22). CJ Leslie had 10 points in the first half but little support as the rest of the club totaled just 12.
Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell and Scott Wood contributed more scoring in the second half as the Wolfpack rallied. Putting up 50 points and shooting over 70 percent from the field in the second half was impressive. The problem was it was too little, too late.
NC State cut into the margin, but Temple's Khalif Wyatt always had an answer. He finished with 31 points, including 12-of-14 from the foul line -- the last two ending NC State's season.
This was a talented Wolfpack team, though it never came close to the expectations. Last season, NC State won two games in the Big Dance before losing a nail-biter to Kansas. With so much experienced talent returning, plus diaper dandies Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren, it was easy to understand why optimism reigned in Raleigh.
That quickly turned to disappointment with a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State early. There were some good moments along the way, such as a win over Duke. But there were not enough positive moments.
Next season, the Wolfpack will have a different look. Howell, a dynamic rebounder and double-double man, is a senior. Scott Wood, normally a sharpshooter, didn't warm up against the Owls until late, and this was his final game. Leslie is a highly regarded junior likely to move on to the pros. Brown is projected as the seventh-best point guard prospect in Chad Ford's latest ranking and is expected to go late in the first round, so he may not return either.
The bottom line is that NC State was one of the biggest disappointments this season.