CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
For the first time in nearly four decades, North Carolina State enters the season as the Atlantic Coast Conference favorite.
The Wolfpack, with four starters back from a team that reached the NCAA round of 16, earned 26 of 53 first-place votes Wednesday from media members at the league’s annual “Operation Basketball” media day.
It is the first time N.C. State has been picked as the preseason favorite since the 1974-75 season, while it marked only the second time in 16 seasons that neither Duke nor North Carolina were picked to win the league race.
In addition, N.C. State junior C.J. Leslie was player of the year, teammate Lorenzo Brown was an all-ACC pick and guard Rodney Purvis was voted rookie of the year.
“It’s new territory for our team,” second-year coach Mark Gottfried said. “This is unchartered waters. And we have to learn how to accept that responsibility.
“It’s something I think our guys are in the process of doing right now. And when you start playing games, you have to understand that you’re viewed differently than maybe you were a year ago, so we’ve got to be ready for that.”
N.C. State hadn’t been picked first since the year after David Thompson helped the Wolfpack stop UCLA’s run seven straight national titles on the way to program’s first NCAA championship in 1974.
The Wolfpack hasn’t won the ACC tournament since 1987 and last won a regular-season crown in 1989.
Wednesday’s vote came two days after the league coaches also picked N.C. State as the preseason favorite in their first-ever vote on an ACC finish or preseason awards.
N.C. State (24-12) finished with its best win total since 1988. Now Gottfried has an experienced core to go with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.
Duke was second with 21 first-place votes and has four starters back from a team that finished second in the league before falling to 15th-seeded Lehigh in its NCAA opener.
North Carolina was third after losing NBA first-round draft picks Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller.
The Tar Heels have won the ACC regular-season title and reached an NCAA regional final the past two years.Reigning tournament champion Florida State was fourth and got the other six first-place votes.
Miami was picked fifth, followed by Maryland, Virginia, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College.
North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo and Duke’s Mason Plumlee joined Leslie, Brown and Snaer on the preseason all-ACC team.