2013 Basketball Blogger Q&A: N.C. State

Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

The Wolfpack showed flashes of a team thought to be among the nation's elite. NC State blog Backing the Pack lets us know whether to expect more of the same this year

2012-13 looked like a big step forward under Mark Gottfried. How does your fan base feel about last year's results?

It did look like a big step forward, didn't it? And then the season started. NC State ended up being a little bit better than the year prior but came nowhere close to living up to the hype of a top-10 preseason ranking. The Wolfpack essentially treaded water, which in hindsight doesn't seem overly shocking, but it was difficult not to feel disappointed given all the preseason talk about the team.

State's first-round loss in the NCAAs sums up the year better than anything I could say here.

What's the biggest piece you've lost since last season?

I suppose an argument could be made for C.J. Leslie, but I think it's Richard Howell, who was not only an efficient scorer but an outstanding rebounder at both ends of the floor, and somebody we could rely on game-in, game-out. Aside from TJ Warren, who isn't really a four (and definitely isn't a five), the frontcourt is full of unknowns. Howell's ability to pull down rebounds in particular was incredibly valuable for a team that was generally mediocre rebounding at the defensive end. Now we can't be certain where those boards are gonna come from.

Who is the player who needs to step up the most this year?

Take your pick. In some respects it's Warren, who needs to be better defensively and also rebound better at that end. Tyler Lewis has got to play better defense for us. In terms of overall play, though, it's got to be one of the incoming big men (barring a surprise breakout by little-used seven-footer Jordan Vandenberg). If NC State is going to exceed modest expectations this season, it's going to have to find a reliable post presence at both ends, whether it's BeeJay Anya, Kyle Washington, or Lennard Freeman.

It's not reasonable to expect one of those guys to be a Richard Howell or C.J. Leslie from day one, but we're going to need somebody who can produce some points in the paint for us consistently.

Who is the player UVa fans ought to look out for the most?

This is Warren's show now, and with every other major contributor out the door, his workload figures to increase. He had a truly insane year shooting the basketball last season, making 63.2 percent of his twos and 14 of 27 three-point attempts. He obviously benefited from the attention of defenses primarily being elsewhere, and his efficiency is going to drop this year, but he's a fantastic natural scorer.

What's your outlook for the season? What's a success, what's a failure, and what's something you can live with?

It's tough to ballpark it with so many new pieces ... only two guys who averaged double-digit minutes last year are back. So it leaves open a pretty wide spectrum of possibilities for the team, which is talented but young and no doubt will be up-and-down as a result. I think this team ends up being NIT-caliber, and I would be okay with that. This is the wrong year to be rebuilding with a bunch of young players, what with Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame now in the fold.

If State won 18 or 19 games, maybe 7-9 league games, that would be a pretty successful year for this group. Falling a couple wins short of that is something I could live with, and a failure would be something closer to a disaster, like going 12-19 or thereabouts.

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