Projecting or assessing anything related to NC State's 2015-2016 basketball season is beyond premature. Its only been about 48 hours since that upsetting loss to Louisville. To push away the sadness, however, and to keep a positive vibe about the future, I'm happily willing to embrace the insanity of an early outlook on next year. Here we go.
Let's say NC State avoids any dreaded transfers or jumps to the NBA. Should that be the case, we're looking at an experienced nucleus who just tasted multiple droplets of March's savory juices. Our three-headed guard dynamic should remain with Terry Henderson set to replace Ralston Turner. Cat Barber will be expected to build on his successful sophomore run. Trevor Lacey is already being discussed as an ACC Player of the Year candidate.
Can Barber and Lacey play in the NBA? Probably, but neither has a super high draft stock that demands an early entry. It's also not even clear if the NBA is imminent for the two guards. Henderson shot nearly 38% from deep in his sophomore year with West Virginia, 40% as a freshman, setting him up nicely to remedy Turner's departure. Whether Caleb Martin or Cody Martin improve or not, the Wolfpack are set on the perimeter.
In the frontcourt, a popular topic that's emerged on our threads here is Kyle Washington's status. Will he stay in Raleigh or transfer elsewhere? Hopefully he stays, particularly because of his knack for providing instant offense. He's a deceptive lefty comfortable finishing near the basket. Regardless of what happens with Washington, NC State will return Abdul-Malik Abu, BeeJay Anya and Lennard Freeman.
The most exciting member there is Abu. He had a wonderful opening weekend to the NCAA Tournament. His free-throw touch and mid-range ability are improving. It's fair to expect Abu to blossom into a more productive sophomore. Anya's offensive upside isn't huge, but his defense is critical. The round of 64 hero offers irreplaceable size. Freeman, another important big man, has become reliable on the boards. He doesn't need many touches, either.
Barber, Lacey, Henderson, one or both of the Martin twins, Abu, Anya, Freeman and preferably Washington. That will be the core of the Wolfpack's squad assuming nothing wild transpires. We should also acknowledge the team chemistry that built throughout 2014-2015. The recent Sweet Sixteen squad seemed to enjoy playing with each other. That shouldn't change over the course of this offseason.
With the potential combination of superb guard play, deep size and a Sweet Sixteen ride to build on, NC State could easily be ranked in preseason polls. This isn't incredibly important, but it's a possible indicator of the Wolfpack's talent. I also can't imagine NC State dropping 14 games again given this new experience. Inexplicable losses partially contributed to the team receiving a No. 8 seed. An upcoming No. 5 seed or so doesn't seem outrageous.
What's the point of all my rambling? In part, this is therapeutic. Discussing the season that ended, and the potential ahead, helps me decompress from another trip to March finishing sooner than our dreams wished. In 2015-2016, though, visions of the Wolfpack faithful might reach higher grounds. Time will reveal if our expectations and NC State's performance can align.