The best time of the year in Triangle sports is just around the corner

Posted on 10/26/11 No Comments

Jeff Skinner - Carolina Hurricanes

We’re in the heart of ACC football league play, which means every Saturday in some corner of the Triangle a group of fans is nervous about the outcome of either the Duke, Carolina or NC State game.

In west Raleigh, only a strip of pavement separates the Wolfpack’s Carter Finley Stadium from where the region’s NHL franchise, the Carolina Hurricanes, have started out the season 3-3. That’s not bad at all, given the team’s propensity for slow starts. Last year’s hottest young player, Jeff Skinner, is proving his youthful debut was not a fluke. He leads the team with 10 points. He won’t be old enough to legally drink until next season.

The hockey season is a long one and by the time the Canes will or will not be definitively in contention for the playoffs, it will be just a few weeks before the official start of Summer. So get to a couple of games this season, they’re a great time.

Since football season, at least locally, hasn’t been the rousing success we hope for every year, we can once again look toward the most beloved sport within the Triangle: college basketball.

The ACC announced a few weeks ago that it will be expanding by adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The ACC just became substantially better by adding these two very tough Big East teams.

But before all that comes to fruition, we still have two of the most favored programs for this year’s NCAA Championship just a couple of weeks away from kicking off the season. Carolina and Duke both return highly regarded starters and both are bringing in some of the most sought-after freshmen in the country. Nationally, UNC seems to be the favorite to win it all. And it’s not at all unlikely.

No one knows what to make of NC State basketball this season. They have a new coach in Mark Gottfried, who before spending a couple of years behind the mic at ESPN, had success coaching in the SEC, taking Alabama to the Sweet 16 three times and earning a No. 1 AP ranking. That’s not to be taken lightly at an SEC school. State also returns some talent, albeit talent that doesn’t always want to show up. Couple that with an impressive recruiting haul for such a short time on the job and you’ll find that most of the pundits are right: no one knows what to make of NC State basketball this year.

Well, we do know one thing: the best time of the year for sports is just about here. Get ready.

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