The reason? With a squad comprised almost entirely of his recruits, Coach Sidney Lowe may at last have the opportunity to demonstrate what kind of machine he has been building in Raleigh. If there were ever a time when the Pack needed to make a statement that it will be a "running" team – that it will push the tempo at every opportunity as Lowe has always intended – that time is now.
While the entire roster appears ready for a more up-tempo transition game (including likely frontcourt starters Tracy Smith and Dennis Horner), the key for the Pack is using its backcourt depth to the fullest extent. Unlike several ACC competitors, State has at least three players – Javi Gonzalez, Farnold Degand and Julius Mays – who can run the point at any given time.
At the Red Rally last weekend, fans got a glimpse of how Lowe intends to utilize a three-guard lineup of Gonzalez, Degand and C.J. Williams to get the team moving up and down the floor at a faster pace.
Moving Degand out to the wing alongside Gonzalez puts the Pack's fastest guards on the court at the same time, while significantly improving the team's perimeter defense. Williams, who is primed for a breakout year, will provide the kind of scoring and spot-up shooting that can help turn fast breaks into instant points. Mays may not be as fast or experienced as State's starting guards, but he is very smart with the ball and is quite familiar running the break with freshman wing and fellow reserve Scott Wood, who played high school ball with Mays for three years.
Having that many competent ball-handlers at Lowe's disposal is something NC State can and should use to its advantage. When looking at the rest of the ACC, few teams will be able to match the Pack in terms of experienced guard depth.
UNC will again field one of the most athletic teams in the country, but their point guard position will be held down by seldom-used sophomore Larry Drew II, with freshman Dexter Strickland as backup. Duke only has three guards on scholarship, and will be looking to slow things down by pushing forward Kyle Singler out to the wing.
With a few exceptions (Maryland and Virginia Tech), ACC rosters have been gutted of backcourt talent. Without players like Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Jack McClinton and Toney Douglas, several teams will be looking to develop new floor leaders and/or slow their transition game down to help with the adjustment. NC State, however, is in a relatively more stable position.
In recent interviews, Lowe sounds extremely confident in the pieces he has in place. He and his staff have been pushing tempo because they know they have the players that can get it done. Make no mistake: this team was built for speed, and Lowe is intent on displaying it this season.