Sports Illustrated’s projection system has a lot of faith in this year’s NC State basketball team, projecting the Wolfpack as a top-20 team and a five-seed in the NCAA tournament. The nice thing about this type of preseason hype is that it’s based on science! — you know, math and all that jazz. This isn’t some random dullard columnist pulling names from thin air.
See, when you have science backing up your preseason June mode, you realize that it’s possible you aren’t going overboard (well, not entirely overboard) with your optimism, that it can be June in the brain as much as it can be June in the heart.
SI projects NC State to have the No. 10 offense in the country and the No. 80 defense in the country. That’s substantially different from the preseason Pomeroy Ratings, which have State at No. 35 overall, with the No. 28 offense and No. 54 defense.
The Pomeroy Ratings have been bullish on NC State’s defense each of the last two years. The SI projection probably reflects something closer to reality, since the Pack has never finished higher than 76th in defensive efficiency under Mark Gottfried. There is potential for this year’s defense to be better/different, but all that speculation is working against a very long track record to the contrary.
Really, with the quality of scorers NC State is gonna put on the floor this year, the defense just has to not be a disaster like it was a year ago. If the Pack does have a top-10 offense—and that seems like an entirely sane expectation, as amazing as that is to say—then the team will have a good year even with a mediocre defense.