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ACC Preview # 2 - N.C. State

Wake Forest
famously called China a sleeping giant and said the world would tremble when she
awoke.  In the ACC, the sleeping giant is N.C. State, or, if you prefer a
different continental analogy, the sick man of the conference.  However you
want to phrase it, the state of State is not what it should be, and the natives
are restless.  

We could mix more metaphors, but you only have to
break a few eggs to make an omelet, unless, of course, you're Big Jelly. Hide
the chickens!

Herb Sendek has felt the heat. His A.D. is backing him, at least
for now, but the fans are not happy.  And when you look at his schedule, we
only count 10 certain wins, and that's counting FSU, which may not be
smart.  And his roster is critically young. These are not good omens for a
coach on the hot seat. Yet for Sendek, there are happy things as well.

To Support DBR

year's team was largely built around a recidivist, a guy with a serious temper
problem, if not serious emotional problems, and a 6-5 power forward whose father
and uncle seem to think he's the second coming. 

So much for that. Damon
Thornton, Kenny Inge, and Damien Wilkins are all gone, and if we were State
fans, we'd say good riddance.  In fact, we say it anyway.  Thornton
was in and out of courtrooms, the refs were constantly paranoid that Inge would
explode (whenever he dove to the floor the refs were close behind - you'll never
convince us that that wasn't a plan of action), and the Wilkins fiasco was ridiculous. Addition
by subtraction? We'd say so.

Additionally, there were reports that Sendek had
trouble keeping the team in line.  That will be easier now with those
clowns gone (we should mention that we don't think, and never heard, that
Wilkins was a discipline problem), and with the summertime addition of former
Ohio coach Larry Hunter, a number of problems may improve. 

First, Hunter
graduated college in 1971, which puts him in his 50s.  Sendek can use that
on his bench, for a general resource and also for discipline purposes.  But
Hunter was a successful coach, and he ran a reportedly exciting
offense.    We would expect Sendek to tap into his expertise,
considering how lame his offense has been.

State still faces the season with a
young team, though.   Archie Miller and Anthony Grundy are the only
seniors of consequence, and erratic Clifford Crawford is the only junior at
all.  Scooter Sherrill and Marcus Melvin are sophs and Michael Bell is a
redshirt freshman.

The true freshman class is very interesting.  Julius Hodges is
the prize, of course, but we are high on Illian Evtimov as a savvy player and a
gutty kid.  Plus he can shoot.  Levi Watkins is supposed to be a good
athlete, and Josh Powell may turn out.  We have heard absolutely nothing
positive about Jordan Collins other than he played at DeMatha. He has been
almost universally panned, if not actually derided.

State can be expected to
play tough defense; it's Sendek's hallmark.  And while Anthony Grundy is
periodically erratic offensively, that was at least partly out of a sense of
responsibility previously: when no one else was doing anything remotely useful,
Grundy tried to step up. It worked sometimes, and sometimes it didn't.  But
he tried.

This year will be a bit different.  Assuming Archie Miller
stays healthy, he and Evtimov give State a very potent outside game.  If
they can keep defenses honest, then Julius Hodges has an excellent shot at being
ACC Rookie of the Year, because if he gets in the lane, he's very hard to
stop.  An open floor will also help Scooter Sherill, Clifford Crawford,
Levi Watkins as slashers and will make life easier for the post players as well.

still has the problem of no real point guard. Archie Miller is a midget. 
No offense Archie, but you're tiny, and you're not exactly Tyrone Bogues. 
What he is is gutsy, fierce, and a great shooter. But he can't stop anyone, and
he doesn't go by many either.

Crawford and Sherill have been duds at point
too, meaning State has a real problem. But Julius Hodge says he wants to play
point, and that might just be the answer for State. If Sendek makes it through
and signs John Gilchrist, then things change radically.

State still has to
figure out the post, along with the point, and Hunter's offensive influence will
have to pan out.  Sendek has said repeatedly he wants to go to more of a
Pitino-type offense, but he coached under him and hasn't managed to do anything
more than a basketball version of Tex Cobb: stand up straight, wade in, and
take your shots and hope you outlast the other guy. It didn't work in boxing,
and it didn't work for Clemson ultimately, either, under Rick Barnes. 
State has to change.

Will they be able to?  It's an open question. 
But as noted earlier,  State has a few hidden advantages this year which it
lacked last year, and if they can count on 10 wins, then the rest of the season,
they need to go around .500 or slightly above to make the NCAA.

If Sendek does
fail to come through, this will likely be it for him in Raleigh.  The funny
thing is he has, record aside, tremendously improved State's situation. 
Every year, they are in it with better recruits, and the new arena is a
plus.  The Pack still has some of the finest fans anywhere, and the
situation, overall, is really very appealing.    They could
legitimately talk to guys like Mike Jarvis, Nolan Richardson, Rick Barnes, 
Billy Donovan (if they could match his package, which seems unlikely), Al
Skinner, the guy at Iowa State, and so on.

In many ways, hiring Nolan
Richardson would be a huge challenge to UNC, because he would recruit well in
North Carolina, and would be a jarring contrast to the preening Matt Doherty. Or
they could always go back to their older tradition -- Jerry Green is not
working. He could pick up a lot of what State used to be legendary for.

Whatever happens, everyone seems to agree that this season is a turning point
for N.C. State. The question is where the turn will take the program. We could see this team winning 20 games; we could also see them having a losing season.