NC State's perfect storm

Lorenzo Brown is one of a handful of playmakers NC State returns to Raleigh this season. Jeremy Brevard/US Presswire

For years, people who write about college basketball have been promising that, at long last, one ACC program or another is about to provide some serious competition to the league's big two -- namely, the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels.

It's not as if such an occurrence would be so remarkable. Maryland won a national title a decade ago. Georgia Tech made an appearance in the 2004 national championship game and followed that up with some notably robust recruiting. Just last season, Florida State recorded a 4-1 record in head-to-head competition against the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.

Teams besides the big two have had their moments. However, repeating those moments on a consistent basis has proved to be more difficult. Since Georgia Tech played in that 2004 national championship game, no ACC team besides Duke or North Carolina has made it to the Elite Eight.

You may remember an ACC team that almost changed that fact in March. The North Carolina State Wolfpack came back from 10 down and trailed the Kansas Jayhawks by just one point with 1:22 remaining in the Sweet 16. Kansas ended up winning 60-57, but people are already talking about NC State's chances to go even further in 2013.

When you have a Sweet 16 team that returns its four leading scorers (C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Richard Howell) and adds three McDonald's All-Americans (Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis), expectations are going to be high. This combination of returning stars and new talent in Raleigh has already been called "a perfect storm of talent."

During a five-game tour of Spain and the Canary Islands this month, NC State went undefeated. Brown showed he is healthy after offseason knee surgery, and Warren and Lewis began to emerge.

That being said, the storm hasn't arrived just yet. In the calm before, let's take a closer look at exactly how far Mark Gottfried and his players can go in 2012-13.