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How High Can NC State Finish Next Season?

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Ever since Ryan Harrow decided to see other shoe stores I've been feeling pessimistic about the next basketball season, but yesterday I was looking over these pre-pre-preseason ACC power rankings...

7. N.C. State (15-16, 5-11)

Mark Gottfried wasn’t the big-name hire many Wolfpack fans were hoping for, but he is a major upgrade over Sidney Lowe. Gottfried took two programs (Murray State and Alabama) to a combined seven NCAA tournament appearances, which is seven more than Lowe managed in five years in Raleigh. Point guard Ryan Harrow (9.3 ppg) is transferring away, but Gottfried still inherits a reasonable amount of talent. Three starters return, thanks to C.J. Leslie wisely choosing to stay out of the draft, and so do a pair of proven reserves who are capable of handling bigger roles, swingman C.J. Williams and power forward Richard Howell. Replacing Tracy Smith’s inside scoring will be an issue, but there is enough in place for Gottfried to keep this club competitive and start building for a better future.

...and while we're obviously shorthanded and hurting in the backcourt, when you look at what the teams at the back end lost, our situation really is not that bad. Boston College and Wake Forest figure to battle for 11th; BC lost so many guys they may not even be recognizable this year. Maryland lost its entire 2011 recruiting class in addition to Jordan Williams. Virginia Tech lost Delaney and Allen, as well as Manny Atkins, who is transferring.

I think Richard Howell will replace more of Tracy Smith's production than many expect, we'll see some growth out of Zo Brown and CJ Leslie, and we know what we're going to get from the reliable Scott Wood, which is a leg up on some of these teams by itself. Am I talking myself into this? Can't really be sure. Is this team good enough to sneak into the top six and win 8-9 games?