Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest basketball took a step back last season under third-year coach Jeff Bzdelik. While Wake was on top of the basketball world in January 2009 (undefeated and ranked #1), the Demon Deacons’ program has fallen on hard times ever since. From October 2010 to April 2012, Tony Woods, J.T. Terrell, Ty Walker, Ari Stewart, Carson Desrosiers, Anthony Fields, Tony Chennault and Melvin Tabb all left the school, either by choice or by force. As a result, the Deacs have won only five ACC games since March 7, 2010. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a phrase that comes to mind.
This is Very Much a Make or Break Season For Jeff Bzdelik (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Bzdelik certainly has his detractors. And his record since arriving in Winston-Salem speaks for itself. When a program has as rich of a basketball history (at least over the last three decades) as Wake Forest does, losing records and mass exoduses of players over a two-year period will not be tolerated very long at all. Although athletic director Ron Wellman has put his support thoroughly behind Bzdelik at some point he has to look out for his own job. Fortunately for both of them, help is on the way.
“Baby Deacs” is the name of the freshman class entering Winston-Salem this year to try and turn this program around. Madison Jones, Tyler Cavanaugh, Aaron Rountree, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Arnaud William Adala Moto, Devin Thomas and Andre Washington make up the seven freshmen expected to get Wake Forest basketball back to their winning ways. The class was ranked #21 in the country by ESPN and #23 by Scout.com.
Kermit Davis, the head coach of Middle Tennessee State for the last decade, parlayed an offer to become the new top guy at Southern Miss into an opportunity to secure himself a nice extension at his current school. Proving the old adage that you’re only as valuable as what someone will pay for your services, Davis’ cachet on the MTSU campus increased significantly more in the last 24 hours than it did over the course of all 27 of those wins for the Blue Raiders last year. Middle Tennessee expects to return nine of its top 10 players from a team that won the Sun Belt regular season going away and reached the NIT quarterfinals in the postseason.
In yesterday’s M5 we talked about the possibility of Indiana legend Calbert Cheaney joining Tom Crean’s staff as an associate coach if he decides to take the promotion. On Wednesday another college hoops legend from the early 1990s agreed to a promotion to the coaching ranks, as Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress will become the Demon Deacons’ new Director of Player Development. After a long career in the NBA and Europe that ended in 2011, Childress returned to his alma mater last year to work as AD Ron Wellman’s assistant. Perhaps this move will help head coach Jeff Bzdelik revive a moribund program that has never truly recovered from Skip Prosser’s tragic death in 2007.
One of the hardest luck stories from Louisville’s surprising run to the Final Four last season was that redshirt junior forward Jared Swopshire was clearly nowhere near the player he was prior to groin surgery in early 2011. He played 13.4 minutes per game in all but one of Louisville’s 40 contests last year, but his averages of 3.3 PPG and 2.8 RPG were well off his numbers two years ago when he was a regular starter. With Swopshire due to graduate this year and Louisville choosing to move on, Northwestern formally announced on Wednesday that Swopshire will transfer there for his fourth and final season of eligibility. As the Wildcats make their annual attempt to sneak into the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13, having a still-athletic and experienced forward like Swopshire on the front line to battle Big Ten foes will come in quite handy.
You don’t see many longer-form articles like this piece from Jason King at ESPN.com at this time of year, but his article discussing how coaches such as Brad Stevens, Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall, Dan Monson and others have found happiness at their mid-major oases is a good one. One of the key differences of course is that those particular programs have made financial and resource commitments that — even if not apples-to-apples with power conference schools — at least make those programs competitive with the big boys. There’s a huge difference between a Butler and a Duke, for example, in terms of basketball facilities, fan base, and the rest; but is there that much of a competitive advantage for a school like Iowa over Butler by virtue of its membership in the Big Ten? Probably not.
While on the subject of coaches in this heavily-themed M5, Luke Winn brings us his first-everData-Based Coaching Awards, a compendium of prizes given in a variety of efficiency-based categories. The categories range from such specific metrics as the “After-Timeout Efficiency King” to “Most Success With the Least Experience,” and there is a mishmash of predictable and interesting results. We won’t give it away here, but three of the eight awards listed in this piece went to the same guy and you probably already know who that is. Winn promises us even more data-based coaching awards later today with a focus on the NCAA Tournament alone. Can’t wait.
Boston Globe – Conference realignment gets old really quickly, but the Globe’s piece on the politicking that went on related to the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse is a must-read. We’ll certainly have more analysis up on the piece later in the day, but suffice it to say Boston College’s Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo went out of his way to shoot Connecticut down, and even has a quote about ESPN being behind everything. Conspiracy theorists unite!
Charlotte Observer – Unfortunately, the rumors are true and Michael Jordan will not be North Carolina’s honorary captain for the Carrier Classic. However, Jordan’s college teammate James Worthy will be joining fellow Laker great Magic Johnson to celebrate their respective alma maters in the first of what is to become an annual event. Jordan told Roy Williams he has a personal conflict he can’t escape, but Worthy is certainly a fine replacement. He played on the 1982 championship squad with Jordan before having his jersey retired to the rafters of the Dean Dome. The game is set for November 11 in San Diego.
Raleigh News and Observer – Speaking of conference realignment, Scott Fowler got hold of ACC Commissioner John Swofford to talk about the recent alignment news. An interesting tidbit from the article is that while Swofford was playing football for North Carolina, South Carolina dropped out of the ACC, leaving the conference with only seven members. With the additions of Pitt and Syracuse, the conference is up to a whopping 14 members and still maintains the intentionally ambiguous assertion that the ACC “is not philosophically opposed to going to 16 [teams].” Let’s just hope that the conference may not be philosophically opposed but is opposed in practice, as 16 teams would make college basketball scheduling a lopsided disaster.
Winston Salem Journal – Jeff Bzdelik is doing his best to restore enthusiasm for Wake Forest‘s program. This year for Black and Gold Madness he’s tapping into the rich resources of basketball alumni like Chris Paul, Randolph Childress, Tim Duncan and Josh Howard to play in an alumni game with Duncan and Howard coaching. “We invited everybody who ever wore a uniform,” Bzdelik said to emphasize the importance of all Wake Forest alumni. The Demon Deacons have already picked up one recruit this month. Hopefully events like this will help refill the talent over the next couple of years in Winston-Salem.
The Chronicle – Duke‘s student paper is the latest to do an in-depth look at the school’s compliance staff, leading me to believe college students are reading each other’s newspapers (relatively unlikely) or compliance staff members are easy interviews to get. All joking aside, this is another valuable look at the people behind one of the most critical parts of an athletic department that usually only brings bad news to fans.Author’s Note: the above link is for the fourth and final part of the series, but has links to the other three parts.
Andre Drummondannounced his “final five” list of considered colleges yesterday, putting to rest the question about his intentions to either go to college in the next couple of weeks or attend prep school for another year (our summary from yesterday). He will do the latter, which means while one round of speculation has ended, another has begun. Drummond has graduated from high school, so another year of prep school would put him a year out from his graduating class, meaning he could make himself eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft. If he decides ever to attend college, his five-school shortlist has a decidedly Big East flavor, save one. In ESPNU’s updated recruiting rankings for 2012, he now occupies the #2 spot, behind only Shabazz Muhammad.
Any fan of college basketball should read Jeff Goodman’s examination of the big bad class of 2002 and how things are going for them now, but if you are a supposed big-shot high school baller and you are reading this, you definitely need to stop what you’re doing right now and check it out. Shows what can happen to you if you start believing all the hype. We’re glad that so many of them have found ways to be happy whether playing basketball or not, but it also sounds like there are a couple of fellows from that class still blaming everyone else except themselves for their lack of NBA success.
Former Tennessee assistant Tony Jones has claimed that the school’s legal counsel instructed him and the rest of the UT staff, including head coach Bruce Pearl, not to be totally open with NCAA officials during the agency’s probe into the program last summer. It should be noted that this, in and of itself, isn’t as sinister as it sounds; clients are almost always told by their attorneys only to answer the questions asked of them and not to, er, volunteer any extra information. That’s how Jones describes the directive from UT’s counsel. In the linked article, he gives an example of a question he was asked during the investigation, along with his response, so we’ll let you decide if he did what he was told or if there’s anything wrong with his answer.
NCAA prez Mark Emmert is a fan of restricting the post-season opportunities of teams that don’t perform up to par academically. He advocates a raising of the minimum team Academic Progress Rate score from 925 to 930, as well as possibly keeping teams caught under it out of the NCAA Tournament. It sounds interesting, but we’re wondering how such a provision would weigh on the minds of high school prospects when it came time to narrow down their school lists. Some schools, as we all know, are harder than others.
It was a good news/bad news day for Wake Forest. The bad news came in the form of the arrest of sophomore forward Melvin Tabb (1.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG last season) on a trio of charges including felony breaking and entering from an incident that happened on the Wake campus back in June. Between suspensions and injuries, Tabb played in just 14 of the Deacs’ games last season, but he’ll play in none this year; head coach Jeff Bzdelik has booted Tabb from the team. What struck us as good news for Wake, though, was the hire of former WFU stud Randolph Childress as an assistant to the AD. That can only mean the little jewel below will be replayed and acted out during practices numerous times, and you couldn’t really blame them. It’s just too funny not to show on the occasion of Childress’ return to Wake, so here you go (sorry, Jeff McInnis fans):
We’ve been anxiously awaiting the next thirty days for the last eleven months. You have too. In fact, if this isn’t your favorite time of year by a healthy margin then you should probably click away from this site for a while. Because we plan on waterboarding you with March Madness coverage. Seriously, you’re going to feel like Dick Cheney himself is holding a Spalding-logoed towel over your face. Your intake will be so voluminous that you’ll be drooling Gus Johnson and bracket residue in your sleep. Or Seth Davis, if that’s more your style. The point is that we’re all locked in and ready to go. Are you? To help us all get into the mood, we like to click around a fancy little website called YouTube for a daily dose of notable events, happenings, finishes, ups and downs relating to the next month. We’re going to try to make this video compilation a little smarter, a little edgier, a little historical-er. Or whatever. Sure, you’ll see some old favorites that never lose their luster, but you’ll also see some that maybe you’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with. That’s the hope, at least. We’ll be matching the videos by the appropriate week, so for the next four days, we’ll be re-visiting some of the timeless moments from Championship Week. Enjoy.
Dateline:1995 ACC Tournament
Context: In the 1995 ACC race for conference superiority, there were four teams who stood above the rest. UNC, Wake Forest, Maryland and Virginia ended the season in a four-way tie for first place at 12-4 in one of the most closely contested conference races in the history of the league. The NBA talent just on those four teams was impressive: Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Jeff McInnis at Carolina; Tim Duncan and Rusty Larue at Wake; Joe Smith and Keith Booth at Maryland; Cory Alexander at UVa. But in that year, there was one player who barely got time at the next level who made the ACC Tournament his own personal shooting gallery: Wake’s assassin, Randolph Childress. In the quarterfinals against Duke, Childress drilled eight threes and went off for 40 points and seven assists in a comeback win. The next day in the semis, he cooled off for only six threes and 30/7 assts against Virginia as Wake won again, moving on to face their nemesis North Carolina in the ACC Championship game. In that overtime thriller, Childress again went nuts, hitting nine more threes en route to scoring 37 points and handing out another seven dimes, including the last 22 points and the game-winner for Wake (keep in mind that eventual 4-time NBA champion Duncan was also on this team). Over the course of three days, Childress shattered the ACC Tournament record for points (107) and scoring average (35.7 PPG), leaving many of the long-time ACC observers stating that they’d never seen anything like it before in the history of that storied league (even so, Childress was not a unanimous selection for tournament MVP!). Legend has it that he played the tournament with a broken finger and that during the stretch run against Carolina, he told his teammates to give him the ball every time down the floor and “get out of the way.” Interestingly, the video showing one of Childress’ crossovers to get open for a three against Jeff McInnis has gotten even more run that his shot to win the game in overtime, but they’re both fantastic.
The MAAC conference tournament gave us another buzzer-beater last night. Saint Peter’s guard Desi Washington rushed down the court and nailed a trey to eliminate Fairfield 65-62 on Washington’s THIRD game-winning buzzer-beater against the Stags this season.
Clown, thy name is UCSB fan. Although players and coaches alike are expected to behave professionally, fans also have a responsibility to contain themselves. Incidents like last night’s approach by a rabid UCSB fan are dangerous for everyone involved.