ACC Team Preview: Wake Forest Demon DeaconsPosted by Matt Patton on October 31st, 2013
Some members of the Wake Forest faithful put together money to fly a banner proclaiming “Fire Ron Wellman“ around BB&T Field at the beginning of October. Alas, at the last minute the air-advertisement company backed out, leaving the disgruntled fan sentiment grounded in a metaphor that seems perfect to describe Demon Deacon athletics as a whole. The hunt for Wellman’s job originally started because of his vocal support for head basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik. Bzdelik’s tenure in Winston-Salem has been abysmal (like, 1-24 on the road in conference play abysmal), but Wellman still supports him.
Luckily, Bzdelik oozes charisma and makes great PR moves. Well maybe not. He did announce that Wake Forest won’t have a team captain this year despite having a four-year senior who has been one of the best players on the team since his freshman year. More than most jobs in the ACC, Wake Forest requires a coach that’s either willing to take a lot of risks or has that one in a million charm (put the two together, and you get the late Skip Prosser). Otherwise it’s too easy to get overshadowed by North Carolina, Duke and NC State just down the road. Bzdelik possesses none of these traits. Now it should be clear why a large portion of the fan base wants Bzdelik and Wellman gone.
All that said, the Demon Deacons have improved each year under Bzdelik. However, if you set the bar low enough, that’s not saying much. His first season Wake Forest finished ranked #271 out of 345 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings — the lowest major conference school in the country. In Jeff Sagarin’s rankings they again took the booby prize. In his second year the team finished below average for D-I (still very bad), and last year the Demon Deacons snuck into the top half of the national rankings with an OK defense.
The key for Wake Forest this season is finding someone to replace CJ Harris on offense. He and Travis McKie were the lone bright spots on a still dismal offensive team last year. McKie has the potential to do that — especially if he can crash the offensive glass like he did during his freshman year. But being forced to play the three stymied his growth the past couple of seasons. If McKie takes on a larger workload, Robert Morris transfer Coron Williams should be able to help replace some of the Deacons’ lost three-point shooting. The other two players to watch are Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre. Should he hold onto the ball Thomas shows a lot of potential in the post as a sophomore, with an elite motor and a nose for the ball. Miller-McIntyre needs to improve, but he’s got much more upside than the alternatives at the point.
Wake Forest has the ability to make teams play down to its level, especially at home. Assuming last year’s freshmen make their standard sophomore leaps, this team has a great chance of ending up above .500 for the first time in Bzdelik’s tenure. To keep his job, Bzdelik probably needs to finish the season with a winning record — doable considering the team’s weak non-conference schedule — and at least one win in Greensboro or a spot in the NIT. That’s asking a lot, but it’s his fourth year. It’s time for results to materialize. This team is at least a year away from being able to think about making the NCAA Tournament, but any postseason is an improvement on the past three years.