Monday, January 13, 2014

season preview: Wake Forest

Media prediction: 13th of 15

Last season:

Record: 13-18 (6-12); ACC 10th seed
Postseason: none
KenPom: 134th of 347

Returning scoring: 67.1%
Returning rebounding: 82.6%
Returning assists: 71.9%

2012-2013 all-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: none
3rd team: none
HM: G C.J. Harris, F Travis McKie
Defensive: none
Rookie: F Devin Thomas

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Starting lineup:

PG: Codi Miller-McIntyre (So.)
SG: Madison Jones (So.)
SF: Travis McKie (Sr.)
PF: Devin Thomas (So.)
PF: Tyler Cavanaugh (So.)


G Coron Williams (5Sr.)
F Arnaud William Adala Moto (So.)
F Aaron Rountree (So.)
C Andre Washington (So.)
G Miles Overton (Fr.)

Coach: Jeff Bzdelik (4th season)

ACC schedule:

Twice: Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, NC State
Once: Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech

Would it be wrong to call the Deacons' lineup....sophomoric?  I know the word has a totally different meaning, but honestly, it's hard to think of a team with more weird imbalance than Wake Forest - they list 17 players on their roster and 11 are sophomores.  The majority, not the plurality, of the team.  I'm not going to bother researching how many are scholarship players, but I'm guessing at least the ones in the rotation, which number seven.  More than half the scholarship allotment.

For a little while, Wake had been two players and eleven nobodies.  The two players were C.J. Harris and Travis McKie.  Harris is gone now and McKie is one of only two seniors on the roster (the other being graduate transfer Coron Williams) so you'd think McKie would be taking over the stat sheet.  Jeff Bzdelik's Wake teams have always had some questionable usage rates, though, and McKie, despite being a very efficient scorer and the star in the past, has been reduced to a role player.  With the ball in his hands, he's an athletic player who can score in a variety of ways, though neither is he unstoppable.

Williams is doing a lot of scoring for Wake despite coming off the bench mostly; he's a deadeye three-point shooter and a smart veteran player who has always taken care of the ball well, largely by being a catch-and-shoot player who doesn't fool around with getting too fancy.  The starting guards, Codi Miller-McIntyre and Madison Jones, share a lot of the ballhandling duties such that it's not quite accurate to call Miller-McIntyre the point guard.  Jones largely eschews the jump shot, shooting almost exclusively on layup attempts (and not getting many of those either), while Miller-McIntyre will shoot from anywhere.  Miller-McIntyre is the team's leading scorer, but his efficiency drops off a ton beyond the arc.

Up front, Devin Thomas is the most important player, the team's top rebounding presence by far and an able though not overpowering scorer.  There's some help, too, from Tyler Cavanaugh and Arnaud William Adala Moto, the latter being a strong defender and rebounder while Cavanaugh plays a little more of a perimeter game despite being a pretty bad three-point shooter.  Wake only gives a few minutes a game to center Andre Washington, but when he's in he's a shot-block factory, racking up almost two per game in less than ten minutes.

You wouldn't know it from the licking the Hoos laid on them a little while back, but Wake has been playing reasonably solid defense this year.  Holding them back is an anemic offense; the Deacons get nothing out of Madison Jones and lack a true inside scoring threat.  Thomas is as good as it gets there, and while he's not terrible, he's not the kind of guy you need to pay special attention too.  Bzdelik doesn't really seem to know who his top offensive options are, allowing less efficient players like Thomas to dominate the usage rates while McKie and Williams languish.  Wake is a faster-paced team, masking their offensive struggles.  They're going to have to scratch and claw their way to .500 in the conference and will probably fall short; the best case for their season is a very low NIT seed or a CBI bid (which they might turn down, since schools have to pay their own costs in that tournament.)  Better than the past few years, but not likely to make the Buzz Off movement go away either.


Raise your hand if you think Duke has about ten thousand horseshoes crammed up the rear end of every occupant of a Cameron seat, and twice that many for the players themselves.  Yup, that's all of you.  It is the only conceivable way Rasheed Sulaimon can brick the game-winning shot so badly, and still make it.

Had UVA been able to put home a few layups here and there, however, there might have been no opportunity for a game-winner by Duke.  The athleticism gap between Duke and the teams UVA has played thus far is palpable; nevertheless, the battling attitude from the Hoos was extremely heartening.  I don't just mean the last four minutes; Duke must have had six or seven different double-digit leads through the game and the Hoos chipped away at all of them.

Another layup here or there, a couple missed threes by Duke (who shot .455 from long-range, not a crazy number but somewhat above average) and UVA is walking away with a win - at Cameron, where the noise was still noisy but seemed relegated to the background.  Duke's athletic, in-the-grill defense (no doubt partly inspired by some matador efforts of late) threw UVA off far more than the vaunted atmosphere.  If we meet again in the ACC tournament - well, I'm not stupid enough to guarantee anything, but neither would anyone feel all that comfortable picking Duke.

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