Mar 24, 2012, 8:15 AM EDT
Despite the fact that NC State returned some talented players from last season’s team that underachieved in the eyes of many, it was difficult to know what to expect from the Wolfpack in the first season of the Mark Gottfried era.
NC State’s season may have come to a painful end as they fell 60-57 to 2-seed Kansas in the second Midwest Region semifinal in St. Louis, but this should be seen as a “starting point” in Raleigh.
NC State finished the regular season in the middle of the ACC pack, and as the final team announced on Selection Sunday there weren’t many people who expected them to get to St. Louis.
But the fact that the Pack were able to do so bodes well for the future, with many of their key contributors expected back and a very good three-player recruiting class due to arrive in the fall (Tyler Lewis, Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren).
“It’s just been a huge turn around, and not many people picked us to be here,” said guard Scott Wood. “A lot of people picked us to be eighth or lower in the ACC. And I think Coach Gottfried and staff just did a really good job of utilizing our players’ strength and just getting them the ball where they needed to have it.”
Guard C.J. Williams is the biggest loss that NC State will have to account for in the off-season with Alex Johnson being a capable backup at the point, but this program is well-equipped to account for their departure.
Point guard Lorenzo Brown began his growth as a leader towards the end of the Sidney Lowe era, making the move to point guard in place of the now-departed Ryan Harrow.
Brown didn’t have his best night against Kansas but the sophomore did play well enough this season to be named Third Team All-ACC, joining forward C.J. Leslie (second team) as a postseason honoree.
Wood, Richard Howell and DeShawn Painter will all be seniors next season, and the combination of two lean seasons and their first taste of the Big Dance should help them become even better leaders.
Kansas tried their best to hand over the game late but the Wolfpack were unable to capitalize. NC State will be better equipped to take advantage of such an opportunity next season.
“We started to click at the end of the year and ended up making it to the Sweet 16,” stated Wood. “But by any means, especially for the people coming back, we’re not satisfied. We feel like we have got some good talent coming in and we have got some good talent returning, and hopefully, next year we can build on this.”
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