-- Elliott Avent feels good about a bounce back, prefers to avoid the r-word:
Like most coaches, Avent didn't want to use the word "rebuilding" entering the season, but recognizes now that with the losses of offensive standouts Ryan Pond, Marcus Jones, Jeremy Synan and Matt Payne — along with the departure of pitchers Eryk Surkamp, Clayton Shunick and Eryk McConnell — there was little choice but to start over.
"You never want to use that word 'rebuilding,' and deep down it's hard to admit that's what happened, but when you lose that many guys, it doesn't take much to make you realize you're going to have to go through at least a regrouping period," Avent said.
Alternatives to rebuilding: re-branding? Re-energizing? Re-winerating?
"In my 21 years as head coach, this is the first team that I've had that was fundamentally unsound," he said. "That was probably more frustrating than anything else. It's just unheard of to be fundamentally unsound defensively, and that's something we're certainly going to shore up.
"We scrimmaged a lot more this fall, and on the surface it made a lot of sense, because we could get some of our new guys more at-bats and get the new pitchers facing more hitters. But I think we paid for it defensively, and this year we're going to spend a lot more time with the fundamentals of defense and just drill and drill and drill. Because it was unacceptable how we played defense this year."
This is the key, I think. While the pitching staff had its problems, it actually improved on both its home run and strikeout rates. The staff walked an additional half runner per 9 IP and gave up an additional 1.5 hits/9, but that doesn't fully explain the additional 2 runs allowed/9 this past season (and the defense is at least partially responsible for the increase in hits allowed). Especially since opponents did not hit for more power in '09 than they did in '08.
If Avent gets the defense back on track, I suspect he'll have the program back on track, too.
-- Matt Hayes still loves him some TOB.
-- NC State's ticket sales are down 4-6 percent, but that's not bad compared to some other ACC schools.
-- Dan Wiederer offers his pre-season hoops power rankings.
9. N.C. State
Power projection: NIT
Wolfpack fans will love watching the growth of incoming freshman guard Lorenzo Brown, a playmaker on both ends of the floor.
And Tracy Smith may emerge as a beast down low.
May? Between this and Adam Gold's opinion that NC State is "just a team full of role players and no star power," it's evident we have much work to do. I'm thinking about putting together a Macrowave Awareness brochure.
-- Ben McCauley followed up his outstanding summer league debut with 10 pts against Cleveland and 6 pts against the Clippers. He continues to score efficiently, though, and is a combined 20-30 from the field in three games.
-- If you're looking for something to help pass the time until football season, boy does this guy have an idea for you.