As we head towards summer, we’re starting to get a good feel for some of the non-conference games we’ll see next season. Last week, we had a couple more tournament and special events announce their fields, or at least part of their fields.

The Las Vegas Invitational announced a field of Kansas, Arizona, Santa Clara and Ohio U. The headliner matchup is obviously the Kansas/Arizona matchup, which will be played on the evening of November 27 at the Orleans Arena.

And, speaking of Kansas, rough news for the Jayhawks the last couple of days. Aside from being an absolute afterthought in conference expansion/realignment talk, they reported last week that incoming freshman Josh Selby had broken an arm and would be out 4-6 weeks, then at the alumni basketball game, Marcus Morris bruised his back and had to be carried off the court, while minutes later Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson collided with each other and came up bleeding, Robinson with a broken nose and Morris with a cut in his mouth that required three stitches.

Elsewhere, the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic announced the schools that will host the regional round of their “tournament”: Illinois, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Texas. Each school will host two games against lesser schools before advancing to the semifinals (regardless of the outcomes of the regional round games) in Madison Square Garden on November 18 and 19. The matchups for the semifinals have not yet been announced, but it would seem that Pitt/Maryland and Illinois/Texas would make the most sense in the semis, as Pitt should be the highest ranked of those four teams and Maryland the lowest. A good set of games though, however.

The SEC-Big East Invitational announced its matchups as well, a couple of double-headers in December. The first set of doubleheaders will take place on December 8th in Louisville, with Arkansas and Seton Hall serving as the warm-up for Notre Dame and Kentucky. Pittsburgh will host the other doubleheader at its place, with Auburn and Rutgers squaring off in the preliminary bout and Tennessee taking on the Panthers for the nightcap on December 11th. Of the four games, the Pitt/Tennessee game looks to be by far the highlight.

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups have already been announced. On Monday, November 29th, Virginia will travel to Minnesota for the opening game. On November 30th, North Carolina at Illinois will highlight a slate of five games, with Ohio State at Florida State, Michigan at Clemson, Georgia Tech at Northwestern and Iowa at Wake Forest filling out the night. The games for December 1st are highlighted by what figures to be the best non-conference game of the season, Michigan State (with or without Tom Izzo) traveling to Durham to face the reigning champion Duke Blue Devils. However, there are a couple of other really intriguing games that night, with Purdue traveling to Virginia Tech and Wisconsin hosting a young and hopeful N.C. State team. Indiana at Boston College and Maryland at Penn State round out the schedule. Miami will be the ACC team sitting out the challenge this year, but maybe they can schedule a matchup with Nebraska, just for fun.

The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series matchups have also already been announced, and in the wake of the Pac-16 rumors, this series should have added significance this year. The UCLA/Kansas matchup on Thursday, December 2nd stands out as a matchup between two perennial powers, but UCLA will have to show some severe improvement to stand up to the Jayhawks this season. Other very interesting matchups include Arizona State at Baylor (on the 2nd as well) and Washington at Texas A&M on December 11th. The rest of the schedule includes USC/Nebraska (Nov. 27), Missouri/Oregon (Dec. 2), Kansas State/Washington State (Dec. 3), Oregon State/Colorado, Cal/Iowa State, Texas Tech/ Washington (all on Dec. 4), Texas/USC, Oklahoma/Arizona (both on Dec. 5) and Stanford/Oklahoma State on Dec. 21.

Other tournaments in the style of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (run by the Gazelle Group, which has an apparent aversion to running fair win-and-advance tournaments, after the Kentucky/Gardner-Webb upset of a couple years back), in which four teams host regional round games at their places before advancing to a semifinal round (regardless of the outcomes of the early rounds) at a neutral site include the CBE Classic and the Legend’s Classic. While the format of the tournament is not ideal, they certainly get good fields (and why not, guaranteed gimme-games at home and guaranteed schedule-booster neutral site games). The CBE features Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas State and Marquette, while the Legend’s features Georgia Tech, Michigan, Syracuse and UTEP. Clearly the CBE is the better of those two fields, with a potential Duke/Kansas State final, although all four of those matchups figure to be intriguing. The Legend’s field lacks a really top-tier team (although, I’ve counted out Boeheim’s teams far too early in the past, and I wouldn’t doubt that I’m doing it again now), however the names on the unis will certainly look impressive.

The strongest field of the traditional tournaments looks to be the Maui Invitational. Headlined by Kentucky and Michigan State, the field also includes the host Chaminade as well as Connecticut, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Wichita State. While no bracket has been released a UConn/Kentucky, Michigan State/Washington set of semifinals looks pretty inviting.

Of the other ESPN-sponsored preseason tournaments, the best belongs to the second iteration of the Diamond Head Classic, to be held around Christmas. The event features two of last year’s Elite Eight in Butler and Baylor, with Florida State, Hawaii, Mississippi State, San Diego, Utah and Washington State rounding out the field.

The rest of the ESPN tourneys are good, not great. The Old Spice Classic features Boston College, California, Georgia, Manhattan, Notre Dame, Temple, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. We’ll get a first good look at Steve Donahue’s BC club, with likely two of Temple, Texas A&M or Wisconsin matching up in the final.

The 76 Classic field is Cal State Northridge, DePaul, Murray State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Tulsa, UNLV and Virginia Tech make up the field, with Murray State having replaced Penn State, which withdrew due to scheduling concerns. UNLV, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State look to be the strongest teams in the field, and it would make sense that those three and Murray State would be matched up to potentially play in the second round, with perhaps UNLV and Virginia Tech on opposite sides of the bracket for a potential final matchup.

The Puerto Rico Tip-Off has North Carolina as the highlight, but West Virginia, Vanderbilt and Minnesota will also bring some interest. Davidson, Hofstra, Nebraska and Western Kentucky round out that field.

The Charleston Classic is still in the process of building its field, but so far Charlotte, East Carolina, George Mason, Georgetown, N.C. State and Wofford make up the rest of the field with two teams still to be determined. The field is off to a good start however, with a Georgetown/NC State final being an intriguing possibility.

And finally for the ESPN-sponsored events, there will also be a new tournament this year, the Cancun Governor’s Cup,held between December 22-24 and featuring a field of Appalachian State, Colorado State, East Tennessee State, Ole Miss, Northeastern, Saint Louis, Southern Miss and Texas State.

In other tournaments, the NIT Season Tip-Off has not been officially announced, but it has been reported that Tennessee, UCLA and Villanova will be the headliners of the field. While the semifinals of this tournament will be played at Madison Square Garden, this is a traditional tournament in which the teams have to, you know, actually win their early round games to advance, so it remains to be seen if UCLA will even get to New York.

The Paradise Jam is made up of Alabama, Clemson, Iowa, Long Beach State, Old Dominion, Seton Hall, Saint Peters and Xavier, a decent field with the potential for a mid-major delight in the finals, with Xavier and Old Dominion perhaps the favorites there.

The Chicago Invitational will include Purdue, Richmond, Southern Illinois and Wright State, and could feature an interesting Purdue/Richmond final.

The Great Alaska Shooutout is a shadow of its former self, but at least was able to get eight teams for this season’s edition after a field of just six teams last year. Arizona State and St. John’s are the biggest names here, with host Alaska-Anchorage joining Ball State, Drake, Houston Baptist, Southern Utah and Weber State.

The Cancun Challenge has not completed their field yet, but have announced La Salle, Northern Iowa, North Florida, Providence and Wyoming so far with three more schools to come.

There will also be the South Padre Island Invitational, but all I can find on that so far is that Texas Tech will be in the field.

Me, I’ll be at the 76 Classic, but one of these year’s I’ve gotta do the Maui Invitational. Although, as much as I love college basketball, knowing I could be snorkeling in the Pacific after a quick trip through the gymnasium doors would be a distracting proposition. Maybe it would be best to save Maui for the offseason.


I've got another article up over at Rush the Court dealing with the rumors this week about the Pac-10 potentially inviting six Big 12 members to join up and create the first in a potential string of new NCAA superconferences.

This is the most recent article in a series, detailing the rumors and conjecture surrounding Big Ten expansion and effect it could have on other conferences. Others in the series include a wrap-up of the Big East spring meetings, analysis of the ACC's new television deal with ESPN, a look at the potential for a Pac-10/Big 12 alliance, and the original piece in the series, an overview of several of the different scenarios that could result from Big Ten expansion.

And, while you're over there, maybe check out their series of draft profiles of last year's college stars. I've got a couple in there so far (Derrick Favors and Ekpe Udoh so far, Gani Lawal, Elliot Williams and others coming up soon), but all of the articles so far are really excellent.
Since I posted my early previews of the ACC, there has been quite a bit of  news out of the conference, mainly along Tobacco Road. Starting with the Tar Heels, when I first looked at their roster, their frontcourt looked a little thin. It got worse before it got better when the Wear twins announced that they would be transferring out of the program (later announced that UCLA would be their destination). With little more than John Henson and Tyler Zeller up front, Roy Williams got to work trying to add some talent up front. First up, Alabama graduate Justin Knox announced that he would take advantage of an NCAA rule allowing graduates to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year, so long as they enroll in a graduate program that their original school does not offer. While Knox is not exactly a superstar (he started 17 games at Alabama last season and averaged about 6 points and 4 rebounds in under 20 minutes a game), he can at least give Williams some frontcourt minutes. Then came news yesterday that James McAdoo, the top-rated power forward in next year's high school class and already a Carolina commit, was considering finishing up his high school studies this summer in order to enroll early at Chapel Hill and be able to play next season for the Tar Heels. If that in fact comes true, Williams' worries up front are pretty much a thing of the past.

Elsewhere on Tobacco Road, North Carolina State head coach Sidney Lowe got some great news, and some great expectations to go along with it, when C.J. Leslie announced that he would be attending NC State next year, turning an already strong recruiting class into a great one, a top five national recruiting class. Lowe will need all the help he can get, as an NCAA Tournament bid will likely be the minimum needed for him to retain his position beyond this season. But, with all that talent in Raleigh, he should be able to get it done.
In the past week we've gotten some good news in basketball land: NCAA tournament expanding only to 68 teams, not the 96-team scenario that would have irreparably damaged the early rounds of the tournament.While most basketball fans would certainly take 64 instead of 68, 68 is such a huge relief after having been faced with 96, that it counts as good news.

Now, there's the issue of what's going to happen with Big Ten expansion and all that it might entail. I've got an article that posted today at Rush the Court that deals with that issues, and to sum it up: it ain't pretty.

Other updates, dealing with some of the ACC previews I posted below: Kyle Singler staying at Duke for his senior season, Solomon Alabi leaving Florida State for the NBA. Singler's return cements Duke as the ACC favorite, the preseason #1 and the early favorite to repeat as NCAA champion. Alabi's departure significantly hurts FSU's outlook and I can no longer get behind them as the #2 pick in the ACC. I would drop them out of the second tier of ACC teams and put them in that big third tier of teams with Maryland, NC State, Clemson, Wake Forest and Boston College.
Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Duke
  2. Florida State
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. North Carolina
  5. Maryland
  6. North Carolina State
  7. Clemson
  8. Wake Forest
  9. Boston College
  10. Virginia
  11. Georgia Tech
  12. Miami
With Singler back, Duke is clearly the favorite in the conference and the team to beat, all alone in the top tier of the conference. Next, I’d put Florida State (and note, as of 4/21 when I’m writing this, Solomon Alabi has not yet declared for the NBA draft), Virginia Tech and North Carolina in the second tier, where each would need something very special to happen for them to challenge Duke at the top . The next group of five teams will all challenge for tournament bids, with those teams that finish at the top of the tier getting in, those in the middle sweating it out on Selection Sunday, and those at the bottom NIT bound. Of course, if a 96-team tournament happens, all of those teams get in. And, probably, a team or two from the bottom tier of teams (Virginia, Georgia Tech and Miami) gets in as well under that scenario, while in reasonable-land, where the NCAA tournament is still only 64 teams, all three teams in the bottom tier wrap up their seasons when they get eliminated from the ACC tournament, and two of those three team’s coaches start polishing their resumes.

All-ACC First Team
G Malcolm Delaney, Sr, Virginia Tech
G Nolan Smith, Sr, Duke
F Kyle Singler, Sr, Duke
F Harrison Barnes, Fr, North Carolina
C Solomon Alabi, Jr, Florida State

All-ACC Second Team
G Dorenzo Hudson, Sr, Virginia Tech
G Kyrie Irving, Fr, Duke
F Chris Singleton, Jr, Florida State
F Tracy Smith, Sr, North Carolina State
C Jordan Williams, So, Maryland

All-Freshman Team
G Kyrie Irving, Duke
G Ian Miller, Florida State
F Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
F James Johnson, Virginia
C Carson Desrosiers, Wake Forest

In Dino Gaudio’s three years at Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons went just 61-31. Clearly, things weren’t working out, so athletic director Ron Wellman got rid of Gaudio and instead hired Jeff Bzdelik away from Colorado where he had gone 36-58 over the same time span. These types of things just make sense.

Now, to be clear, Wake faded down the stretch each of the last two years and was eliminated in the first round of the tournament, and Gaudio has received criticism for his halfcourt offense (or lack thereof) and Bzdelik certainly has the reputation as a better X’s and O’s coach, but it was still a surprising and odd turn of events in Winston-Salem. However, the Bzdelik era did get off to a successful start when he was able to retain the Wake assistant coaches and the strong five-man recruiting class that Gaudio and his staff had put together. And given that the Deacons have four starters who will not be back, including Al-Farouq Aminu who declared early for the NBA Draft, Wake will need every one of those five recruits in order to compete in the ACC in 2010-11.

The lone returning starter for Wake is sophomore guard C.J. Harris, who averaged almost 10 points per game in his freshman season. Harris is a versatile offensive performer, with athleticism, speed, deep three-point range and acrobatic finishing ability. Ari Stewart is another intriguing perimeter player coming back for his sophomore year, with three-point range from all over the court, good size and slashing ability. He will likely be the starter at the three. The Deacs also returns a couple of potential difference makers in the middle in juniors Tony Woods and Ty Walker, both five-star recruits from a couple years back who have yet to live up to their advanced billing. Woods has at least seen the court on a regular basis, but neither has developed into a productive player as of yet. But with Aminu, Chas MacFarland and David Weaver all gone, both players will have plenty of opportunities to win a spot in Bzdelik’s rotation.

The recruiting class has a little bit of everything for Bzdelik to play with. Center Carson Desrosiers is the most highly regarded of the class, and his skilled post-play should fit in well in Bzdelik’s system. He is an excellent passer, has range out to the three-point line and is still an excellent rebounder. Melvin Tabb is a power forward who has to improve his strength and interior play. Ideally, Woods and Walker earn plenty of minutes next season, allowing Tabb some time to grow into his playing time. Travis McKie is a smart swing with a pretty jumper who will likely spell Stewart at small forward. J.T. Terrell is a scoring guard who will battle Harris for playing time. And finally, Tony Chennault is the point guard of the group, and he may step into starter’s minutes right away. The Philly product doesn’t have the blinding quickness of Ishmael Smith, but he is a tough penetrator. If Chennault is not ready for big minutes right away, Bzdelik may have to go with Harris and Terrell in the backcourt, despite neither being a true point guard.

 A couple final pieces of the puzzle for Bzdelik may fit in perfectly with his system. The lone senior on the Wake Forest squad, Gary Clark, is a shooter pure and simple. He doesn’t do a lot of other things well, but he can fill it up from all over, mid-range out to deep threes. Likewise, Georgetown-transfer Nikita Mescheriakov (eligible at the semester break) is best known for his three-point ability. In Bzdelik’s modified Princeton offense, shooters are at a premium, and as a result, both of these guys may play a big role for the Deacons.

When the regime change took place in Winston-Salem in late March, Deacon fans were just about ready to hit the panic button. But with Bzdelik keeping the recruits on board and getting some continuity in the program through the retention of the assistant coaches, it looks like things will be fine for Wake. This team may be too young and inexperienced to compete for an ACC title or even a NCAA Tournament berth, but sooner rather than later, this Demon Deacon program will be right back where they belong.

Okay, before we get started here, may I offer a little tip to Hokie head coach Seth Greenberg? I see that last year you did try to bump up your schedule strength a little bit. You had road trips to Iowa and Penn State, you had a neutral site game against Seton Hall and a more-road-than-neutral game against Temple, you had Georgia, even UNC Greensboro isn’t the worst thing in the world. And, in the end, it really wasn’t your fault that most of those teams had bad years. This year, don’t take that chance at all. Schedule your four or five non-conference BCS opponents, schedule an A-10 school or two, but then, when you’ve already got a Charleston Southern or a Campbell or a Longwood on the schedule, maybe resist the urge to also schedule Brown and UMBC and VMI and instead go with another BCS school, or another upper-echelon A-10 school, or hell, even a CAA school would be an upgrade over Longwood or Campbell. Coach, you’ve got a good team and a veteran team, there’s no need for you to baby these guys in the non-conference schedule. There are plenty of upper-mid-major programs that would gladly come to Blacksburg. But if you line up directional schools and worse, no one is going to be surprised if you get another unpleasant surprise on Selection Sunday.

All that being said, it shouldn’t really come down to that. Assuming guard Malcolm Delaney returns for his senior season (and he should, as a guy who is projected as a second-rounder at best), the Hokies will return all five starters from a team that was good enough to have been a Tournament team. With Delaney and fellow senior Dorenzo Hudson manning the backcourt, Virginia Tech will have good size, good ballhandling and excellent scoring from their backcourt. And up front, the combination of junior Victor Davila with seniors Jeff Allen and Terrell Bell make an athletic, if undersized frontcourt. Add in another undersized senior post-player in J.T. Thompson and you’ve got the nucleus of a talented veteran Hokie team.

To that nucleus, add a big beastly rebounder in 6-9 Allan Chaney, a transfer from Florida who sat out last season and could challenge for a starting spot this season. Sophomore Cadarian Raines, a nice interior presence who will need to be more aggressive on the glass, will also provide depth in the middle. Incoming four-star recruit Jarell Eddie will compete with sophomore Manny Atkins for the first minutes off the bench at the three. In the backcourt, depth will come from sophomores Erick Green (a sweet-shooting back-up point who will be the likely choice to jump into the starting lineup should Delaney opt for the NBA) and Ben Boggs and freshman point Tyrone Garland.

Assuming Delaney returns, this Hokie team is quite capable of an upper-division ACC finish, but they’ll need to take advantage of their non-conference opportunities to pick up quality wins, something that has cost them NCAA Tournament appearances the past three years. A backcourt of Delaney and Hudson would definitely have coach Greenberg feeling comfortable, but if Jeff Allen is able to corral all of his ample ability and give consistent effort, this could be a special VT team.

The hiring of Tony Bennett a year ago heralded big changes in Charlottesville; it just took the better part of a year for the depth of those changes to become apparent. When the Cavs head into their second year under Bennett, the roster will show little connection to the Dave Leitao era.  The team’s best player and leading scorer, Sylven Landesberg, will be in the NBA. Center John Brandenburg and wing Tristan Spurlock, both among Leitao’s last recruits have announced their intentions to transfer, as has wing Jeff Jones, another Leitao recruit who had fans alternating between excitement and disappointment throughout his Cavalier career.  In any program with a coaching change, there are going to be personnel issues between the new coaching staff and the holdover players, and given the deliberate pace and defensive commitment that Bennett requires of his players, those personnel issues are likely to be heightened. But after this offseason, with the defections and the six player (so far) recruiting class, it looks like Bennett will have begun to remake the program according to his specifications.

The returnees for the Wahoos begin with senior Mike Scott, the team’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder and a rock-solid, if unspectacular base upon which to build the team. Junior guard Sammy Zeglinski will also return and while he can play either guard position for Bennett, he is more suited to being a catch-and-shoot guard off the ball. Sophomore Jontel Evans and senior Mustapha Farrakhan are both more pure one-guards, and Evans coming out and winning the starting point job in the fall would be ideal for the team. Junior center Assane Sene and senior forward Will Sherrill round out the returnees and both will be called on to provide plenty of minutes along the front-line. Both are rebounders who have displayed limited offensive games thus far in their careers.

The six-man recruiting class will be asked to play and contribute right away. The class is highlighted by two four-star recruits: center James Johnson and off-guard K.T. Harrell, both of whom will have the chance to grab a starting spot early. Johnson is a skilled post-man, if slightly undersized at 6-8, and could start right away alongside Scott. Harrell is an athletic scoring guard who will fill the spot left by Landesburg’s departure nicely and could fit in very well in a three-guard backcourt with Evans and Zeglinski. Elsewhere in the recruiting class there is sweet shooter Joe Harris, pure point Billy Barron, skilled big man Will Regan and combo-forward Akil Mitchell, each of whom could be in for some important minutes for the ‘Hoos next season.

With the relative youth of this squad and their lack of playing time together, it is hard to see this Cav team making a big splash in the ACC or contending for an NCAA Tournament bid (remember now, I’m still in denial about this whole 96-team BS until it is actually official), but Bennett is an excellent coach and is good or a couple of wins by himself. Whether the Cavs win in 2010-11 is pretty irrelevant, however. Sure, Bennett and the entire Cavalier program would like to see this thing get turned around immediately, but based on what Bennett has done so far, whether that happens next year or not, this program is headed in the right direction.

For the Tar Heels, the less said about last year the better, despite putting it together long enough to advance through some mediocre teams to the NIT Championship game. Given the talent and the expectations, an NIT berth was unacceptable, regardless of whatever bad luck may have cropped up during the year. Even after losing 80 percent of their NCAA-title winning starting lineup, with three of those guys headed to the NBA, the Tar Heels didn’t expect to have to rebuild, because, as the saying goes, they just reload. Well, talented players like Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson have used up their eligibility and promising forward Ed Davis decided to peddle his wares at the next level, and what do the Tar Heels do? Little more than bringing in three more five-star recruits to reload again. Small forward Harrison Barnes is the most highly touted of that threesome and, depending on who you listen to, perhaps the best incoming freshman in the country, but big guard Reggie Bullock will step in and make an impact immediately as well, and even point guard Kendall Marshall may figure prominently in Roy Williams’ plans.

Fair or not, point guard Larry Drew took a lot of the blame for Carolina’s poor play in 2009-10, despite starting in every game and handing out six assists a night. Drew is not a great shooter, not a terrific pressure defender and not a flashy player. There was some talk after the season ended that he might decide to transfer somewhere else to escape some of the pressure, but such talk has since been rejected and Drew will be back next season. Whether he will retain the starting point position remains to be seen, however, as Marshall will definitely give him a push, and even sophomore Dexter Strickland may something to say there as well, despite the fact that he is decidedly not a pure point guard. More likely, Strickland will compete to start at the two-guard with Bullock, with fellow sophomore Leslie McDonald getting some minutes there as well.

Up front, this Tar Heel team will be significantly less physical than the best of the best UNC squads. Junior Tyler Zeller is a skilled shotmaker around the hoop and a hard-worker, but has yet to get through a season without injury issues. Sophomore John Henson may start next to Zeller, but he’ll need to improve his physicality as well; for all his phenomenal athleticism and length, he is paper thin and needs to add strength. The Wear twins, David and Travis, will also compete for time up front, but will more likely provide depth, with Travis, in particular, providing excellent offensive rebounding.

Barnes has got to be the favorite to start at the three-spot, and he is a versatile performer that can match some guard skills with the ability to fight inside as well. Junior Will Graves is the incumbent starter at that spot, and the leading returning scorer, but it will be awful hard for Graves to hold onto his spot over Barnes. It is possible that both players could wind up in the starting lineup (either at the 2/3 spots if UNC wants to go big or at the 3/4 if they want to go smaller and more athletic), but either way it would seem that Barnes will be stealing some of the shots that Graves got this year.

No doubt about it, this is yet another talented Tar Heel team, but there are some holes and some question marks that need to be answered before we can pencil UNC back in the tournament, let alone as the national championship contender that folks around Chapel Hill expect. Who is going to do the dirty work inside? Who is going to run the offense? There is plenty of flashy athleticism up and down the roster, but until there are answers to those two questions, the long-term viability of this UNC team will remain in doubt.

In the first four years of the Sidney Lowe experiment in Raleigh, the Wolfpack have gone 20-44 in the ACC and their best finish in the conference was ninth. Given the way other ACC head coaches have been kicked on down the line this past offseason for far less egregious records, it would appear that 2010-11 is going to have to be the last stand for Lowe’s ballclub.

And, luckily for him, this may be the most talented Wolfpack team during his run. Leading scorer and rebounder Tracy Smith will return for his senior season and will again be counted on to be a strong, efficient low-post scorer. But the key for the Wolfpack’s success next year may lie in a couple of five-star backcourt recruits. Six-foot-five shooting guard Lorenzo Brown committed to NC State last season, but did not qualify and spent the season at a prep school, where his stock rose even higher, but he remained true to his commitment to Lowe. Additionally, Lowe added guard Ryan Harrow, a quick little scoring point, who will likely take over the lead guard role from senior Javier Gonzalez almost immediately. Around that trio, Lowe would likely start sophomore Richard Howell up front alongside Smith and perhaps pure shooter Scott Wood to keep defenses honest. If Harrow and Brown perform up to expectations, that is likely the best starting five the Wolfpack have fielded in the Lowe era.

Depth, however, may be a question mark, and Lowe hasn’t quit scouring the nation for an additional athlete to add to that group. However, if the roster remains the same, Gonzalez will almost certainly be the first guy off the bench, providing another good three-point shooter and some senior leadership from the bench. Junior C.J. Williams will also provide minutes off the bench, but both of those players will need to cut down on their turnovers, especially in light of playing with a couple of freshmen guards. Up front, depth will come from junior Johnny Thomas (a natural three with athleticism enough to play the four in a pinch), sophomore DeShawn Painter (long and lean post-player who could turn into a monster with some added strength) and sophomore Jordan Vandenburg (a 7-1 Aussie center whose game still has to grow into his body).

It certainly isn’t a sure thing for Lowe, but there are enough pieces there to make an NCAA appearance, especially considering that this may not be an epic version of the ACC in 2010-11.