Daniel Bayer , 252 ESPN Radio
It’s early in the season (the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is just getting underway); however, I like what I have seen at the start of the season from Wake Forest. So much so, that I think this may be the start of the re-aWAKEning (cheesy, I know) of Wake Forest basketball. Since the departure of Dino Gaudio, Wake Forest has not sniffed the NCAA Tournament, has had a record of 51-76 record under Jeff Bzdelik, and has fallen off the national radar, while the other big 3 area schools (UNC, Duke, and NC State) have won ACC and NCAA Championships.
We are entering year two of the Danny Manning era, and coming off a year with a 13-19 record, yes, there is really no where to go but up with this team.
Manning was a good hire for Wake, and has already shown promise both on the court and on the recruiting trail (I hate that he missed out on getting Harry Giles, as this certainly would have helped speed up Wake’s reemergence as a contender). Coaches may not be able to teach height, but I have a feeling that Manning will be able to coach and develop players with height (there are four players on the team that are listed 6’10’’ and taller).
CLICK PLAY BELOW TO LISTEN TO DANIEL BAYER & MARK PANICHELLI TALK WAKE FOREST BASKETBALL as well as PREVIEW MARYLAND vs UNC & the BIG 10-ACC CHALLENGE
Now, I am not ready to go on record and say that this team is going to be cutting down the nets in April (they have not made the NCAA tournament since 2010) or that they will be contending for the ACC Championship, but I do think that this team is going to finish better than 11th in the league, as they did last year. Even as the college basketball game is trending (similar to the NBA) towards a guard-oriented league, Wake Forest’s height is going to cause problems for teams this year.
While many of you were going back for second helpings of turkey and mashed potatoes, Wake Forest was taking home 3rd place at the Maui Invitational. This is certainly one of the more elite early-season tournaments and my personal favorite tournament, so for Wake Forest to come out of Hawaii with two upset wins against UCLA and Indiana, it should help give them confidence as they get ready for the ACC season.
Early on Wake Forest has been led by Devin Thomas and Konstantinos Mitoglou. Thomas is going to be counted on throughout the year for his rebounding and inside scoring, and if he can improve his free-throw shooting, he will be one of the elite big men in the ACC. Mitoglou presents a defensive challenge for opposing teams with the ability to hit shots from 3-point range, which stretches the opposing team’s defense and allows for Thomas to operate on the inside. Even though you never want your leading scorer to be out for an extended period of time, the injury to Codi Miller-McIntytre has given both Mitchell Wilbekin and Bryant Crawford valuable early season on-the-job experience. This will only help in their confidence as the season progresses. Crawford, one of the top recruited point guards out of high school, has been the second leading scorer early on in the season. Now that forward Cornelius Hudson (a Sophomore who averaged 7 points a game last year) has been reinstated, it will help with creating a deeper bench, which was an issue for the Deacons in the first few games of the season.
In my opinion, once their leading scorer and Senior point guard returns from his injury, this Wake Forest team will be one that gets the Screamin’ Demons rocking in Joel Coliseum and will have their rivals up the road nervous that this team is no longer just an easy notch in the win column.
CATCH DANIEL BAYER EVERY TUESDAY ON THE DRIVE ON THE 252 ESPN RADIO NETWORK