Here's an early look at next season's ACC, and like a lot of people, Paul Schenkel is picking State high and discounting Duke. Here's why he might be wrong about State, or at the least premature.
A lot still hinges on CJ Leslie and Amile Jefferson: if Leslie decamps to the NBA and Jefferson goes elsewhere, State's depth takes a huge hit.
TJ Warren will be a solid forward, especially on offense, but he can't do what Leslie does and he may not be able to do what DeShawn Painter did this season, namely be a reliable presence in the post and a guy who could back up Leslie and Richard Howell when they got into foul trouble, which they did a lot.
Without Painter and possibly Leslie, they'll have to push someone else into the lane. The candidates?
Warren, Jordan Vandenburg, Tyler Harris andÂ Thomas de Thaey.
Keeping in mind that Warren is a talented player and naturally a bit of an unknown quantity until he takes the court, do any of those names keep coaches up at night?
If they don't have Leslie, here's the book on State: run everything at Howell until he gets in foul trouble (Richard "The Foul" Howell...hmmm) and then just go Woody Hayes and pound it up the middle.
Even if they sign Jefferson, he's going to be slim for the near future and would be out of position at best if he has to play in the paint.
State is bringing in Warren, Rodney Purvis and Tyler Lewis, all of whom are really good.
But they're only returning Howell, Scott Wood, Vandenberg, Lorenzo Brown, de Thaey, Tyler Harris, and possibly Leslie.
That's four solid returnees - three if Leslie leaves -Â plus three outstanding freshmen.
And with or without Leslie, State is likely to have trouble with frontcourt depth - which becomes a huge problem without him.
On the other hand, Tyler Lewis is going to make a huge difference at point guard and we expect he'll probably move Brown off point.
State's perimeter game is going to be greatly improved with those two plus Purvis and Wood.
If you're taking State first, though, you're betting that Howell can overcome a history of foul trouble and that someone can pick up the absolutely critical role Painter played.
And it's not as obvious yet, but the roles for Wood and Brown will change, because Purvis and Lewis are going to play. It's pretty easy to have great chemistry when you only have a seven man rotation.
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