This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.
Burning Question: Is Danny Manning ready to turn this team around a year early?
If you look carefully at Wake Forest, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned with this team. For the second straight season, the Demon Deacons lost several players in the offseason: Madison Jones was dismissed; Darius Leonard graduated; and Aaron Rountree transferred. And among the players still residing in Winston-Salem, the two most talented — Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre — are also wildly inconsistent. But despite these concerns, there are also some prompts for optimism. The Deacs return their top five players in terms of minutes played, and three of those five were only freshman a year ago. Danny Manning, in only his fourth year on the bench, appears to have all the makings of a great head coach. Throw in a sneaky good recruiting class of three talented players (sixth-best in the ACC, according to the 247sports composite ranking), and this year’s team has the potential to take a big step forward.
Whether Wake does will largely depend on the health and productivity of the veterans. Miller-McIntyre broke his foot last week and will be out through the first couple of games at a minimum. Manning will need him healthy as soon as possible, although giving Mitchell Wilbekin and Bryant Crawford (a consensus four-star point guard) some early time running the show might not be a bad thing. On the other hand, Miller-McIntyre’s untimely injury makes Jones’ dismissal slightly more painful. Wilbekin is more of a short shooting guard than a true point guard, and who knows how quickly Crawford will adjust to the college game? Miller-McIntyre is a proven ACC commodity, and even Thomas, a player capable of creating his own offense from his work on the backboards, could struggle without his old point guard providing him touches. The reality is obvious: If Miller-McIntyre can’t get healthy enough to display what’s become an annual tradition of personal improvement, this Wake Forest team is likely to struggle to climb to the ACC’s middle tier.