The ACC’s Unlikely Dynamic Duo: Wake Forest’s Travis McKie and CJ HarrisPosted by KCarpenter on December 12th, 2011
Currently, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons are sitting on a 6-4 record. It’s not a great 6-4, but it’s not terrible either. Wins against Nebraska and Loyola (Maryland) are nice, and losses against Arizona State and Richmond aren’t impressive, but they aren’t damning. By December 15 of last year, Wake Forest had a 6-4 record, albeit with some ugly losses to the likes of Stetson and Winthrop. After that date, the squad managed only two more wins. Considering the ugliness of last season, it’s understandable if fans feel a bit queasy about the sense of déjà vu. Still, despite the similarity of record and the familiar names on the roster, the Demon Deacons are progressing by leaps and bounds.
Sophomore Travis McKie’s performance was the highlight of last year’s bleak campaign and the good news is that he has picked up right where he left off. Despite handling a heavier portion of the offensive load, McKie has been able to maintain production at a very high level. I should clairfy what I mean when I say that McKie is handling “a heavier portion of the offensive load.” No one in the ACC is on the floor as much as this guy. McKie leads the conference by averaging 35 minutes per game. He is on the floor 86.9% of the time. The guy is an iron man, and yet he manages to produce. McKie is second in the league with 18.6 PPG, only beaten by the insane production of Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin, who is averaging 22.5 PPG. McKie is doing it fairly efficiently too with a 59.9 true shooting percentage. Aside from Stoglin and Mike Scott, the sophomore is perhaps the best primary offensive option in the league.
Still, McKie’s role as a first-rate scoring option isn’t what makes Wake Forest so deadly. That distinction belongs to C. J. Harris, a player who has really blossomed this year. Last year, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Harris posted a 93.6 offensive efficiency rating while taking 15.6% of the team’s shots. This year? Harris has an offensive efficiency rating of 117.7 while taking 25.1% of his teams shots. That’s an insane improvement. So now, not only does Wake Forest have the conference’s second-leading scorer, but it also has the conference’s third leading scorer (17.9 PPG). It might have sounded crazy this time last year, or even two months ago, but Wake Forest easily has the most productive scoring tandem in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
What has been the difference this year? Three-pointers. Last year, Harris made 19 threes all season. This year, he has already made 18. It’s much easier to score a lot of points when you are shooting 51.4% from beyond the arc. Likewise, McKie made 17 three-pointers all last season. So far this season? Twelve threes on 41.4% shooting. A greater willingness to shoot from distance combined with an increased ability to actually make the shots has turned a pair of good-but-not-great players into an outright deadly pairing.
Make no mistake, this is great news for Wake Forest, even if the pair’s production drops off a little as conference play begins. Still, it’s worth putting the two into context. Outside of the dynamic duo, Wake Forest really struggles to produce offensively. Every other player on the team has been below average on the offensive end. The exception to this role is Chase Fischer, a freshman who has so far demonstrated an excellent shooting touch. Of course, considering that he gets fewer chances than any other player on the team, he hasn’t been able to become a significant factor on offense yet. McKie and Harris have been sensational so far, but without the rest of the team contributing much, it’s going to be awfully hard for Wake Forest to make a significant jump in improvement this season.