NC State hype train has left the station
Posted October 16, 2012
The ACC surprised most observers on Monday when it announced NC State was selected to win the conference in the league's first preseason coaches poll.
That the Wolfpack were selected to win the league wasn't the surprise, it's that the coaches were convinced to do a preseason poll in the first place. Delicious irony considering they loathe discussing expectations going into the start of the season. Although it's amusing to speculate how each coach voted and their motivations for doing so, such as Roy Williams throwing a first-place vote Mark Gottfried's way just to ratchet up the pressure that goes along with being considered the favorite.
NC State, Duke and North Carolina will likely shake out in the same order on Wednesday when the media hands out their preseason poll at Operation Basketball in Charlotte. Understandable, since the Wolfpack bring back most of what got them to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The rational takeaway from all of this? It says a lot about the improvement of NC State's off-the-court perception under Gottfried. Their performance last March peaked the interest of national pundits and the continued transformation of C.J. Leslie into "Calvin" is the type of narrative writers lap up. But somewhere along the way, the off-season momentum of improvement somehow evolved into an expectation that NC State is in position to overtake the Tar Heels and Blue Devils.
Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com wrote last month, "things are about to get irrational in Raleigh." Except it's not the coach, the fans or the local media that covers NC State making things irrational. It's the national folks driving the hype machine for a change.
It's important to point this out because if the Wolfpack don't live up to that hype, it's highly probable the stories blaming fans for expecting to much out of NC State based on a couple weeks of great play last season have already been written and produced. Pack fans always seem to take the bait and give them what they want -- reaction and web hits.
But if you talk to most NC State fans about the upcoming season, it ranges anywhere from cautious optimism to nervousness because it's been a while since the Wolfpack received this much attention. Will the Leslie of March show up the entire season? Can Richard Howell stay out of foul trouble during crucial stretches of games? Will depth concerns rear their ugly head? Sure, the talent is there, but the wait and see attitude is justified.
...and when a fan base has dealt with more than 20 years of "NC State Stuff," it's easy to understand.