ACC Basketball: How Will NC State Play as the ACC Preseason Front-Runner?

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IOctober 17, 2012

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 10:  Haukur Palsson #13 of the Maryland Terrapins controls the ball against C.J. Leslie #5 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the second half of the game in the first round of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 10, 2011 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The NC State Wolfpack were picked by the ACC head coaches to win the conference this season, Joe Giglio of the Charlotte Observer reports.

This is the first-ever preseason vote of the coaches.

Eight of the league's 12 sideline leaders chose the Pack to finish on top, three of them chose Duke and one picked North Carolina.

To say that NC State might have forgotten what its like to play from the front is an understatement. The Wolfpack last won the ACC championship in 1987.

Even last year, when the Wolfpack won 24 games and advanced to the Sweet 16, they still tied for fourth place in league play.

NC State coach Mark Gottfried said in a statement released by the school:

This (being the preseason front-runner) is new territory for our players and we need to make sure we stay focused on the process of improving.

The Wolfpack came out on top in more than just the conference championship selection. The coaches also picked NC State’s C.J. Leslie as Preseason Player of the Year and teammate Rodney Purvis as Rookie of the Year.

Gottfried and his team will have to stay focused, especially since they are being hyped as the "team to beat."

The days of having nothing to lose are gone in Raleigh. Some things need to change, and change fast.

The Pack must break their losing streaks against the "Big Two." They have lost 13 straight games against UNC and six of their last seven against Duke. The last time NC State won in Chapel Hill was 2003.

To actually win the league title, the Wolfpack will need to beat a Top 25 team or two. Last year, they didn't defeat any of their eight ranked opponents in the regular season.

They also need to do better than 13-6 at home. Maybe shave that down to no more than two or three L's.

Predictions: NC State (24-13) will improve last year's ACC record of 9-7, but with playing UNC, Duke and Florida State each twice, the Wolfpack will still be no better than a runner-up for the conference.