Rodney Purvis Makes NC State a Bona Fide ACC Title ContenderPosted by Chris Johnson on September 18th, 2012
Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
The preseason hype meter for the 2012-13 North Carolina State Wolfpack has been held in check by the lingering suspicion that incoming guard Rodney Purvis, the No. 5 ranked shooting guard in the country and the No. 1 overall player in the state of North Carolina, would be ruled ineligible to play next season. Those concerns no longer exist, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY. TV, who reported Monday that Purvis has received the official green light from the NCAA clearinghouse. Purvis was allowed to participate in practices and began attending classes, but did not take part in the team’s foreign exhibition trip to Spain last month, which raised the prospect he might miss the season as a partial qualifier. Purvis’ extended clearance process involved a meticulous review of his academic coursework at Upper Room Christian Academy in Raleigh. His track record now approved, the NCAA delivered Mark Gottfried and NC State its best news of the offseason.
With Purvis in tow, NC State may very well have the talent and depth to compete for its first ACC crown since Jim Valvano bossed the Wolfpack sidelines more than two decades ago. C.J. Leslie returns to headline a vaunted frontcourt featuring bruising senior Richard Howell and highly-touted freshman T.J. Warren. The backcourt, fronted by sure-handed point guard Lorenzo Brown, three-point marksman Scott Wood, freshmen Tyler Lewis and Purvis, should be among the best in the ACC, if not the country. It’s hard to find too many flaws with this NC State team: If everything breaks right – if the new blood can fit in alongside a talented returning rotation; if Leslie can harness his first-round potential from game-to-game; if Gottfried can unify the talented crop of incoming talent with the mainstays from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team – the Wolfpack won’t just be shooting for a conference title. They’ll set their sights on something far greater. Reaching the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, as NC State did last season after hitting its stride just in time to put the finishing touches on a bubble-worthy resume with a deep run in the ACC Tournament, should be the baseline expectation. When they finally sorted out their rotation and and learned to maximize their strengths and mask their weaknesses on both ends of the floor, the Wolfpack proved they could challenge the best teams in the country. After its conference tournament run was halted by a healthy North Carolina (as in, before Kendall Marshall’s wrist injury), NC State dominated six-seed San Diego State and edged three-seed Georgetown before falling to eventual national runner-up Kansas.
That was without Purvis and the rest of Gottfried’s star-studded recruiting class, without an entire offseason to reflect on what worked during its hot streak, implement that formula with its promising newcomers, and reprise its late season success from the outset. NC State is now the odds-on favorite to win the ACC, and that’s a testament to the talent-rich roster Gottfried has compiled in his short tenure in Raleigh. But its been more than 20 long years since the Wolfpack seized ACC supremacy, a mostly regrettable recent history that casts at least some level of skepticism over their chances of sealing the deal this coming season. For one, Duke and North Carolina – granted, both programs are weathering significant talent and personnel losses, not to mention potential NCAA problems, and neither appears built for national championship contention – are still Duke and North Carolina. The Wolfpack have long been viewed through a little brother prism in the Tar Heel State, with sporadic runs of success in the modern era interrupting an otherwise middling existence. Valvano brought a national championship and two ACC Tournament titles to Raleigh, but the program has since failed to live up to those lofty standards. This season gives the Wolfpack their best chance of breaking the Tobacco Road stranglehold since Valvano’s tenure, but can they overcome the complacency that often accompanies preseason hype? Will the youth congeal with veteran mainstays into a unified and self-contained unit? Can they finally, after years of mediocrity get to the ACC mountaintop, or achieve something greater?
In what would serve as a deserved reward for its lamentable recent history, The stage is set for NC State’s national ascent. With a power void at the top ranks of ACC competition, and arguably one of the nation’s most balanced and talented all-around rosters, the Wolfpack are primed to end the Tobacco Road stranglehold on league supremacy. As opportunities go, the coalescence of favorable circumstance couldn’t be more ideal for NC State. With Purvis’ lingering eligibility questions out of the way, Gottfried has his work cut out for him. What he’s accomplished in Raleigh this early in his tenure is truly remarkable. Maximizing this team’s potential by leveraging it into a deep postseason run is the necessary next step in this program’s emergence. Gottfried has the Wolfpack on an upward trajectory. Fulfilling the Wolfpack’s preseason expectations with national-level success – that’s Gottfried’s mission, and it’s hardly a guarantee.