Sunday, January 23, 2011

season preview: Wake Forest

Much is going on and it's a busy week. But business is business. Last of the hoops previews. I've got at least six more recruits to profile - hopefully more - and baseball/lacrosse season is fast approaching. No shortage of things to write. But for now, here's Wake Forest to make you feel a hell of a lot better about UVA.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Media prediction: 12th

Last season:

Record: 20-11 (9-7); 5th in ACC
Postseason: NCAA 9 seed; lost in second round
KenPom: 58th of 347

Returning scoring: 30.5%
Returning rebounding: 15%
Returning assists: 15.8%

2009-'10 All-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: F Al-Farouq Aminu, G Ishmael Smith
3rd team: none
Rookie: G C.J. Harris
Defensive: F L.D. Williams


PG: C.J. Harris (So.)
SG: Gary Clark (Sr.)
F: Travis McKie (Fr.)
F: Ari Stewart (So.)
C: Carson Desrosiers (Fr.)


G J.T. Terrell (Fr.)
C Ty Walker (Jr.)
F Nikita Mescheriakov (rJr.)
G Tony Chennault (Fr.)

Coach: Jeff Bzdelik (1st season)


Once: Boston College (A), Clemson (A), Duke (H), Miami (H), North Carolina (A), Virginia (H)
Twice: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State, Virginia Tech

It doesn't seem to have been a difficult choice for the media to decide who they thought would bring up the rear in the ACC parade. Wake Forest lost all but two of their major rotation players from last season; most of this year's rotation consists of freshmen and other players just getting used to the idea of heavy minutes. The surprise is just how badly they're doing. The list of teams Wake has lost to this season is long and horrendously undistinguished; they're a major reason why "the ACC is down this year" is such a media theme. (The Big East would like you to pay no attention to the DePaul behind the curtain.) I could write the whole list, but Stetson and Presbyterian will suffice to give you an idea of the suck.

The bright spot is Travis McKie, a forward out of Richmond that Tony Bennett tried like hell to recruit. You can see why: he's the team's scoring and rebounds leader and an efficient scorer. Bennett also went after J.T. Terrell, a streaky shooting guard. McKie is playing like a veteran; Terrell is every bit the freshman. He's second in scoring after McKie but takes and misses way too many shots. Terrell hasn't quite settled into a role - eventually he'll be a starter, but for now he's a spot starter and sixth man, depending on the opponent. The guy who should be taking more shots is Gary Clark, who's hit an astounding 35 of 54 three-pointers.

Those are the top three scorers, but none were on the team last year. The two that were previously mentioned are C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart. Both are reliable scorers in their own right, and both turn the ball over far too much relative to their value to the offense.

Those are basically the only five scorers on the team. All score in double figures; nobody else even averages five per game. Wake alternates Carson Desrosiers and Ty Walker at center; they're more or less clones of one another except that Walker is a junior and blocks way more shots. Pull any of the five scorers out of the game - they're rarely all in at once anyway - and Wake is playing a man down on the offensive end.

And it's not like the defense makes up for it. In fact, the defense is putrid. Actually, Wake (Walker, mostly) blocks shots very well, partly a function of always being able to have a seven-footer on the court. Other than that, they can't stop anyone, and they're especially poor at forcing turnovers. Nor do they rebound well. Jeff Bzdelik might have a lot more leeway among Wake fans, given the situation he's walked into, but any team with a functional offense will score on Wake. Stetson dropped 89 points on them, and that is a team that averages 62. That's a good way to get fired one-third of the way into your rebuilding project.

There's no point talking about Wake's postseason prospects, since they've been playing their way out of any consideration since Day 1. The real suspense will be to see if they even win an ACC game. They certainly won't be favored in any of them. So far they've yet to lose any by fewer than 19, and Georgia Tech held them to 39 points and beat them by 35. A year as ugly as this is going to require massive improvement next season in order for the torch-and-pitchfork crowd to stay quiet.

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