NC State joins the ACC elite

If C.J. Leslie picks up where he left off last season, he's an ACC Player of the Year candidate. Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Leading up to Midnight Madness in October, ESPN Insider's "Countdown to Madness" series is previewing the top five seeds in each of the four regions in Joe Lunardi's preseason 2013 NCAA bracket. To read about the key stats and freshman impact for each team as the previews are published, plus get expert predictions from Jay Bilas, Fran Fraschilla and Lunardi, click here. This is the entry for the North Carolina State Wolfpack, No. 3 in the Midwest (Indianapolis).

The key: Four returning starters

Stat to know: 262

Mark Gottfried's first season in Raleigh put the Wolfpack back on the map, culminating in the team's first trip to the NCAA tournament since Herb Sendek's final season in 2005-06. With four experienced starters returning and a star-studded class of incoming freshmen, Gottfried's second season brings heightened expectations.