After what was deemed a disappointing season by the national media, the Wolfpack will have to rebuild after losing five of the top seven players from last year's team. Mark Gottfried will have a very young team to work with, where the two known commodities are only sophomores. T.J. Warren is expected to be the star after an impressive freshman season in which he averaged 12.1 points and gained a spot in the starting lineup in the second half of the season. While there is undoubtedly some talent and a deeper rotation this year, replacing Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, C.J. Leslie, Rodney Purvis, and Scott Wood will be no easy feat. If the unsettled frontcourt can find production from somewhere, the Pack will have a high ceiling.
Sophomore Tyler Lewis will be expected to man the point guard spot after seeing extensive action in a few games as a freshman. Lewis only played sparingly until Brown was hurt and Lewis was forced into the starting lineup for 3 games and performed admirably. Lewis' calm demeanor and pass-first mentality should help the many newcomers get comfortable within the offense. Lewis will have some competition at point guard from incoming McDonald's All-American Anthony "Cat" Barber. Barber is lightning quick and a good perimeter defender. He should see some minutes at point guard and even some at the off-guard spot to pair with Lewis when the Pack want two ballhandlers on the court.
NC State will have a couple of experienced options at shooting guard and small forward. Junior Ralston Turner is eligible after transferring from LSU. Turner was a starter during his two years in Baton Rouge, averaging double digit points as a perimeter threat. Turner will need to work on other aspects of his game, but will be utilized similarly to the way departed Scott Wood was for the last two years. Desmond Lee is a junior college transfer who averaged around 20 points at New Mexico Junior College last season.
Warren will spend time at both forward spots, but the Pack will need some help in the post to keep him at his preferred small forward position. For NC State to be successful this season, Warren will have to be an all-conference player. He has slimmed down and looks like he is willing to take on the challenge.
The X-factor for Mark Gottfried's club will be how much fifth year senior Jordan Vandenberg has improved since last season. With three freshmen providing the only other help down low, Vandenberg will need to play at least twenty minutes and provide rebounding and defense at the least. Kyle Washington and Lennard Freeman are the two freshmen expected to se the most time. Both are high-energy players and should be able to fill roles off the bench and perhaps occasionally starting. Beejay Anya was the second highest ranked player in this year's class, but will probably see the least amount of time due to his conditioning issues. If he can improve that aspect, his shot-blocking and rebounding would be a huge help to the Pack in a transition year.
The Wolfpack have some challenges in their schedule, with games at Cincinnati and Tennessee and home dates with Missouri and Northwestern. They also see a few challenging mid-major squads like Long Beach State and Florida Gulf Coast. In conference, the Pack will see Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Wake Forest each twice. Finishing with a winning record in those eight games would do wonders for NCSU.
In a rebuilding year, making the postseason seems like a reasonable goal. The Wolfpack look bound for the NIT, with an absolute ceiling of squeaking into the NCAA Tournament. The Pack are just too young and short on numbers to be a real threat, but could become a fun team to watch as the season progresses. A lot of the burden will rest on the shoulders of Lewis and Warren, but the season will be dictated by how the rest of the rotation performs. If Mark Gottfried can lead his club to a winning record and 8-9 ACC wins, this season will be deemed a success.
Without a doubt, T.J. Warren is the best fantasy option on this team. He will likely provide around 15 points and 6 rebounds per game this season. If he makes the typical freshman to sophomore jump, Warren could be a fantasy stud. Tyler Lewis is also a good fantasy pick-up for his points and assists possibility.