The Buzz Is Back At North Carolina State
CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- NC State forward Richard Howell has taken the same route to class since he was a freshman and never had any problem making it there on time.Until now. "I really can't walk to class without being late,'' the 6-foot-8, 257-pound forward said, shaking his head as he grinned. "You can leave 15, 20 minutes earlier and people are still going to stop you. "Mainly, they want to talk about the NCAA championship. Most of them just skip over the ACC championship and skip right to the NCAA championship. You really can't go anywhere in Raleigh without hearing about NC State basketball, but it's a good problem to have." For the first time in a very long time, the Wolfpack are the talk of the Triangle (and ACC), ahead of Duke and North Carolina. With four starters back from the team that reached the NCAA Sweet 16 plus a heralded freshman class, NC State was picked by the league media as the preseason favorite for the first time since the 1974-75 season -- and it was only the second time in 16 years that someone edged the Blue Devils and Tar Heels out of the top spot (although they did rank second and third, respectively). It's an exciting time for second-year coach Mark Gottfried, but he also knows he and his team have to keep things in perspective. "We want to keep improving; it's important we continue to do that,'' Gottfried said. "I think our guys are very well aware that you get to January and the ball goes into the air and you've got two teams playing, that how you were picked back in October has very little relevance to anything. So we've got to go play. We know that. But I do like the fact that I believe our program is improving. We're getting better."
Duke Could Still Shine Even Without A Star
Miami Has Confidence to Beat Expectations
Guards Should Give North Carolina A Great Shot
Duke's Mike Krzyzewski
Preseason Media Poll
1. NC State
3. North Carolina
4. Florida State
9. Georgia Tech
10. Virginia Tech
11. Wake Forest
12. Boston College
Florida State's Michael Snaer
Boston College: "I think it's really exciting, watching us grow up, grow together, come together as a team. & We did surprise some people in a few games last year, and I think you're going to see more of those this year. I'm excited and confident about what we can do."
-- Dennis Clifford
Clemson: "We've got 12 freshmen and sophomores -- at times it seems more like a junior college team than a Division I team. But I like our energy. Our guys are competitive, which is essential to everyone getting better."
-- Coach Brad Brownell
Duke: "We have to be better defensively. Last season, statistically, we were one of the worst defensive teams Duke's had in a long time.
That has to change."
-- Mason Plumlee
Florida State:"One of our philosophies is when we step on the court, we're going to try to punk you. & We're going to try to be tougher than you. That's what we're going to try to do. We're going to do everything we can to be more physical, and just make life miserable for you the whole time you're playing."
-- Michael Snaer
Georgia Tech: "Students are ready to come to the games, they keep asking, 'Can we come see it [the new arena], when's it going to be open?' It's pretty much the pride factor of just protecting your home. That should give us more motivation to win games at home."
-- Mfon Udofia
Maryland: "We're more together, more of a complete team. We have young guys who can fill the basket up, scoring. We lost Terrell [Stoglin], but I feel like we'll be fine. We have enough talent."
-- Nick Faust
Miami: "I feel fine playing at 330 and everything, but I feel quicker off my feet. I feel I can run and my endurance is longer at this weight right here ."
-- Reggie Johnson
North Carolina: "We have a great team this year; I think people are really selling us short. But it's fine, we're not worried about that. We're not worried about any preseason rankings or preseason accolades that other teams might be getting over us. That's just added motivation."
-- James Michael McAdoo
North Carolina State: ""As soon as you turn on the TV, I feel like ESPN's always talking about us and the opportunity we have this year. That's something we don't want to catch a big head on. A lot of people have picked us first but we're not concerned about that. We just want to go out there and actually play."
-- Richard Howell
Virginia: "Not having Mike [Scott] carrying the offensive load for us, things won't necessarily change us defensively -- that will be constant, as long as Coach Bennett is at the head of this program. But offensively, this team will have more of a balanced attack."
-- Joe Harris
Virginia Tech: "In practice every day, it's about working and getting as good as we possibly can get every day. How good is that? We don't know yet."
-- Coach James Johnson
Wake Forest: "We're not going to use 'freshman-being-a-freshman' as an excuse. I told them that. Being a freshman is no excuse. None at all. Just get that mindset in there right now guys."
-- Coach Jeff Bzdelik
Miami's Jim Larranaga
Maryland's Nick Faust
UNC's James Michael McAdoo
Virginia's Tony Bennett
ACC Preview Content
For a Blue Ribbon breakdown of every ACC team, click here.
More ACC coverage:
• Jason King's five things he can't wait to see in the ACC
• Seth Greenberg answers five burning questions for the conference
• Chad Ford on the ACC's best NBA prospects
• Podcast: Andy Katz chats with ACC coaches on the ESPNU podcast
• Robbi Pickeral rates and analyzes the nonconference schedules of the ACC
• Paul Biancardi identifies the top freshmen and potential recruits in the ACC
• ESPN.com's Summer Shootaround preview of the ACC
For more ACC coverage in the Nation blog, click here.
Duke's Seth Curry