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At least it was midnight somewhere—even if that somewhere was Bucharest rather than Bloomington—when the college basketball season debuted at 5 p.m. EST last Friday with ESPNU's live broadcast of Midnight Madness: Indiana Practice. The presumptive No. 1 Hoosiers' first official workout gave us a glimpse at a point guard nicknamed Yogi (blue-chip freshman Kevin Ferrell) and license to reference a Yogi-ism. It gets late early in this sport, where Midnight Madness has been mostly a misnomer since the NCAA relaxed its start-of-practice restrictions in 2005.
Even in the hoops haven of Tobacco Road, it was considered normal that Duke worked out in the afternoon on Friday, and North Carolina and North Carolina State tipped off in the seven o'clock hour, with the usual emcees, gags and televised scrimmages. What was unusual? Seeing the Wolfpack, for decades the region's stragglers, posturing like lead dogs.
Second-year coach Mark Gottfried made the humblest of entrances to PNC Arena—by zip-lining down from the upper deck while the theme from Superman played and a feed from a gott cam strapped to his waist was broadcast on the scoreboard. Gott's got a team, and he wanted the 10,257 fans who came out for the first practice to know it: For the first time since 1974--75, the season after N.C. State won its first national title (chart, below), the Wolfpack is likely to be ranked ahead of both Duke and UNC when the first AP poll is released on Oct. 26. With four starters (Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell) back after a Sweet 16 run and three McDonald's All-Americans (Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis) joining them, it did not seem ridiculous when Gottfried grabbed the mike and proclaimed the Wolfpack's goal of playing "on Monday night in April." In a preseason with no overwhelming title favorite, Gottfried is one of many coaches who can be forgiven for thinking late early.
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
North Carolina State
*AP preseason polls. Estimated 2012--13 rankings are based on a composite of polls from several media outlets.
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