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More Win Shares, McDonald's, and the Leslie Leap

This is part 4 of the apparently never ending series on win shares (WS). The focus here is to use WS as a base, combined with the potential impact of incoming recruits and expected improvement from returning players, to establish a possible ceiling for the 2012-13 Pack.

After this entry, the question was posed as to whether or not the WS totals of returning teams was historically valuable in predicting their future success (or abject failure). Below the jump, check out what the ACC standings would've looked like this year based solely on returning WS.

If 2010-11 Returning WS Determined the 2011-12 Standings (actual finish in parentheses)

1. UNC 23.9 (1st)

2. Duke 21.2 (2nd)

3. Miami 17.3 (T 4th)

4. Florida State 16.5 (3rd)

5. Clemson 13 (7th)

6. N. C. State 12.3 (T 4th)

7. Virginia 10.5 (T 4th)

8. Georgia Tech 10.3 (T 9th)

9. Maryland 8 (8th)

10. Virginia Tech 8 (T 9th)

11. Wake Forest 2.6 (T 9th)

12. Boston College 2.1 (T 9th)

So, I'd say hells yeah, WS have predictive value, though obviously more than one year should be examined in order to make that claim with greater certainty. But, as for our sample here, the #1 and #2 teams were right on, 3 of the 4 bottom feeders were nailed, and you can see that the Pack were poised to ascend from the abyss.

There are things WS cannot tell you alone. Virginia is short changed on the list because Mike Scott was hurt for most of 2010-11. With a healthy Scott's totals added in, UVA easily vaults to 4th, right where they ended up. The WS totals can't tell you that a new coach, say the Gottfather, would coach up some underachievers and lead them to the Sweet 16, but WS does show that the potential was there.

Returning WS forms a good base for comparison and prognostication but cannot factor in these variables: freshperson impact, the Leslie leap (a player improving a ton from one year to the next), and ncstateshit (injuries, suspensions, 75-foot buzzer beaters, the bubonic plague, etc). Ultimately, those three variables are too volatile for anyone to accurately predict, but recent history can again be our guide.

Since all 3 of our incoming recruits are Burger Boys, I looked at the 2011 McDonald's All American rosters to measure the average first-year impact of Ronnie Mac's purported studs. It's less than you might think. Throwing out Marshall Plumlee, who was redshirted presumably because he needs to eat a burger, the 23 Burger Boys averaged a solid but unspectacular 3.0 WS in their debut seasons. There were 4 JACKPOT! frosh: Kentucky's Anthony Davis (11.3 WS!) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (6.3 WS), IU's Cody Zeller (7.2 WS), and Florida's Brad Beal (6.0 WS). Nobody else eclipsed the 4.7 WS put up by one Scott Wood last season, and the average if you throw out the jackpot frosh was just 2.0 WS.

The Pack return 18 WS next season, second best in the league behind Miami's 20.1 WS, and need to replace the 6.4 combined WS from the departed C. J. Williams, Deshawn Painter, and Alex Johnson just to return to the 24-win level, top half of the ACC team they were a year ago. Given the amount of playing time that appears to be available for Rodney Purvis, I am hopeful that, at the very least, our freshpeople can cancel out what we lost from a year ago.

But the key to N.C. State's success is likely not to rely on the newcomers to provide a significant impact, but rather to hope for the continued development of our core 4: Calvin Leslie (5.0 WS), Wood (4.7 WS), Lorenzo Brown (4.5 WS), and Richard Howell (3.5 WS). Those 4 improved by 8.3 WS from 2011 to 2012. I think Wood has nearly maxed out his potential, but if Leslie plays an entire season how he finished last year, Brown cements his status as the league's top playmaker, and Howell matures beyond his tendency to pick up silly fouls, that trio could easily add 3-5 WS. Then any contributions from MegaHorse and a hopefully healthy Vandy are the gravy that propels this gravy boat to 30 wins.

Over the last 9 seasons, the conference regular season champion has had at least 29 wins overall, so 30 is a pretty good target to shoot for. Despite Miami's depth and experience, I think only State and Duke have the potential to get there in 2012-13's ACC.