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ACC Basketball Previews: N.C. State Wolfpack

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Can Mark Gottfried's talented youngsters develop quickly enough to move the Pack forward? Or will 2014-15 be a rebuilding season in Raleigh?

This is a 300-pound basketball player
This is a 300-pound basketball player
Gregory Shamus

Last year: 22-14 (9-9 ACC), KenPom #59, RPI #55

Projected starters:
Anthony "Cat" Barber, G - 6'2, 185, sophomore
Ralston Turner, G - 6'5, 205, redshirt senior
Desmond Lee, G - 6'4, 200, redshirt senior
Abdul-Malik Abu, F - 6'8, 235, freshman
Kyle Washington, F - 6'9, 230, sophomore

Other contributors
Trevor Lacey, G - 6'3, 210, redshirt junior
Caleb Martin, F - 6'7, 195, freshman
Cody Martin, F - 6'7, 200, freshman
Beejay Anya, F - 6'9, 300, sophomore
Lennard Freeman, F - 6'8, 245, sophomore

Relax a little, ACC defenses: TJ Warren is gone and he can't hurt you anymore.

But matching up with the 2014-15 iteration of the N.C. State Wolfpack is going to look more like fighting a swarm of bees than the one big bear that was Warren. Two very solid recruiting classes in a row—including a 2014 haul ranked 22nd in the country, according to Rivals—has left coach Mark Gottfried with a ton of athletic bodies to hurl at the opposition.

No team more embodies the move toward wings and stretch-fours than this Wolfpack squad. Other than a few guards, almost the entire roster is between 6'5 and 6'9. Gottfried landed three commits in 2014, all of them four-star athletic forwards (Abu and the Martin twins). And while no one would mistake 300-pounder Beejay Anya for a track star, every member of the Wolfpack frontcourt has the ability to pose a speed mismatch.

The weakness, then, is size. Teams that can run two or three guys on the floor at 6'10 or better should be able to work the ball down low. Teams just killed NC State on the offensive glass in 2014, and this year's squad is even smaller. Zone defenses should also slow down the Pack's penetrating wings without a threat of getting burned from deep: NC State shot only a hair over 30 percent from three in 2014, one of the worst rates in the country.

If Cat Barber takes another big step forward, and Ralston Turner and Des Lee step into their roles as senior leaders, this Pack team could push into the second tier of the ACC and should get a round or two deep into March Madness. Any sophomore slumps or freshman learning curves could be a major obstacle, and place Gottfried on the always-uncomfortable bubble come April.

Virginia plays NC State twice: in Charlottesville on January 7th, and in Raleigh on February 11th.