East Region Wrap, Day 2: NC State Coulda’ Been A Contender

On draft guru Chad Ford’s evaluation card, he describes NC State C.J. Leslie’s positives as follows:

• Big-time athlete  • Explosive leaping ability  • Finishes way above the rim  • Runs the floor like a guard  • Great quickness for someone his size  • Emerging perimeter game  • Excellent shot-blocker  • Good ball handler for his size

That’s the profile of a lottery-pick. If you catch the kid Leslie in certain spurts, he can look all-world. But that’s the thing: “in spurts.” Too often, he lets another dude be the best player on the court. That’s an issue. And that’s why some draft boards have Leslie slipping into the 2nd round.

Friday, 9-seed Temple bounced 8-seed North Carolina State from the tournament with 76-72 win. As far as seedings go, this was no upset – 8 and 9 seeds are practically interchangeable (and judging by the A-10’s collective tourney performance, Temple’s 11 conference wins are more impressive than the Wolfpack’s 11). But, by all accounts, NC State is far more talented than Temple. Leslie and point guard Lorenzo Brown are surefire draft picks, Richard Howell is borderline. And all three players balled hard in the loss. Still, it wasn’t enough. They couldn’t dictate things against a Temple squad that, when put in a “big-time player” context, is mostly full of unsung, if not pedestrian talent.

But if you want to say it’s an underachievement-thing – that Leslie & Crew were pretty good, but not good enough – well, then a lot of fingers have to point to Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried. Now was the time to coax great performances out his studs with pro talent and he came up short.

It’s not like it would have mattered much though, right? Elsewhere in the region, Indiana and Miami bodied their low-seed foes, much like Syracuse did the night before. Both games (a 29-point win for The U, a 21-point vic for IU) were one of those embarrassing “nothing to see here” affairs that most expected. If you wanted David and Goliath drama, you had to check the Georgetown-FGCU game in Philadelphia.

Ultimately, NC State has to feel a little disappointed. They had the kind of high-ceiling squad that, when playing to its potential, could have very well pulled out a deep tourney-run. Instead, Leslie and Lorenzo will start prepping for the NBA Draft a week or two sooner than they would have liked.

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