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.

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