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Tudor: NC State can win ACC Tournament

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Photo by Jeff Reeves Photo by Jeff Reeves

Veteran sports writer Caulton Tudor is sharing his views with the WNCN.com audience during the March basketball run.

Assuming Lorenzo Brown's right thumb isn't seriously injured, N.C. State is my sleeper pick in the ACC Tournament, which starts Thursday in Greensboro Coliseum.

Here are three factors that should work in the Wolfpack's favor:

* C.J. Leslie: The junior forward sooner or later simply has to realize that he's not just playing for his team and/or campus legacy. He's also playing for NBA paychecks.

Leslie has a lot of talent but he's not a great physical fit for a power forward or a wing forward in the pros.

He's also wildly unpredictable. If Leslie can't get focused and stay focused on contributing something on each possession and each defensive stand, he could easily play himself out of the first round of the draft and into never neverland.

If he can't turn that into March incentive, he might be smart to stay in school.

* Flexibility: For the first two or so months of the season, Coach Mark Gottfried simply did not have enough depth or lineup options to smoothly maneuver his way through close games.

The emergence of Tyler Lewis as a capable contributor and freshman T.J. Warren's knack for virtually inventing points has changed the Pack's court chemistry.

Off the bench, previous starter Rodney Purvis is competent at worst and offensively explosive at best.

Obviously all of this and buck can't buy you a cup of coffee if Richard Howell and Leslie get into foul trouble at the same time.

* Experience: With two seniors (Howell and Scott Wood) and two juniors (Brown and Leslie), State has more quality experience than nine ACC teams and almost as much as Miami and Duke.

Remember that State beat Duke once and would have whipped Miami, even with Brown sidelined by an ankle injury, had it not been for a miraculous tip-in by Reggie Johnson. That game was Feb. 2 in the midst of a stretch of Hurricane routs and near routs.

There's little reason to think Virginia Tech on Thursday or Virginia on Friday can keep the Pack from getting to Saturday's semifinal and a likely shot at Miami again.

Brown, the team's most important player, showed up with a taped right thumb for Wednesday's practice session in Greensboro Coliseum.

He went through practice and should be ready to go Thursday in the 2:30 p.m. game against Virginia Tech.

Hardly a post-season passes in which injuries don't have as much impact on league tournaments and NCAA games as coaching tactics.

State cannot lose any one of its top seven players and go far. If Brown goes down, so too will the red and white.

But if all hands are on deck and healthy, the Pack should be a tough out in Greensboro and beyond.

 

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