According to Mike Huguenin of Yahoo! Sports, N.C. State will return to ACC prominence based on an incoming freshman class that includes three Hamburger Helpers. Whether or not C.J. Leslie stays put will no doubt impact their season.
Here’s an early look: 1. Indiana, 2. Kentucky, 3. Louisville, 4. Michigan, 5. N.C. STATE, 6. NORTH CAROLINA, 7. Florida, 8. Kansas, 9. Baylor, 10. Ohio State, 11. Syracuse, 12. DUKE, 13. San Diego State, 14. Michigan State, 15. Arizona, 16. Notre Dame, 17. Creighton, 18. Memphis, 19. Texas, 20. VCU, 21. Villanova, 22. Tennessee, 23. Gonzaga, 24. FLORIDA STATE, 25. Stanford.
Here's what Hugeunin had to say:
N.C. STATE: This season: 24-13 overall, 2-1 in NCAA tourney. Assumption about next season: All the key underclassmen return. The buzz: Mark Gottfried has a superb recruiting class coming in, heading by hometown G Rodney Purvis, who should provide a ton of offense. He and PG Lorenzo Brown will make for a scary backcourt. F C.J. Leslie could turn pro, and he would be missed. But he certainly is not someone who cannot be replaced. For the first time in a while, the Wolfpack would seem to have a legit shot at winning the ACC.
NORTH CAROLINA: This season: 32-6 overall, 3-1 in NCAA tourney. Assumption about next season: John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall are the only underclassmen who leave. The buzz: UNC took a huge hit with that trio of underclassmen joining senior Tyler Zeller in leaving Chapel Hill. But weep not for Roy Williams. He is bringing in four top-75 players and should get vastly more production from James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston, touted freshmen this season who will get a lot more minutes next season. There are rumblings that McAdoo will go pro, which would be a mistake – and a reason to drop UNC a few spots in the rankings. Gs Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald should be healthy, which also will help. The key could be the play of freshman PG Marcus Paige, a four-star prospect.
DUKE: This season: 27-7 overall, 0-1 in NCAA tourney. Assumption about next season: G Austin Rivers is the only underclassmen to leave. The buzz: Freshman G Rasheed Sulaimon should help ease Rivers’ departure. What would further help is consistent play from G Quinn Cook, who was way too erratic as a freshman this season. Duke again should be a backcourt-centric squad. A holdover (or a transfer) will need to step up to help the Plumlee brothers in the frontcourt.
FLORIDA STATE: This season: 25-10 overall, 1-1 in NCAA tourney. Assumption about next season: All the key underclassmen return. The buzz: The Seminoles lose six seniors, but only one, F Bernard James, will be truly difficult to replace, and that’s as much for his leadership as his production. Point guard will be the biggest problem unless incoming freshman Montay Brandon, a four-star recruit, can handle the job. He is part of a solid four-man recruiting class for Leonard Hamilton, whose team again should be in the ACC title hunt.