Previewing Wake Forest – Are they really that bad?


It’s no secret that this is a down year in ACC basketball. Duke is the only ranked team, North Carolina is the only other squad receiving votes, and most of the schools (Maryland included) are rebuilding. Nevertheless, there are two schools that have stood out as being worse than all the rest – Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Tonight, the Terps head to Winston-Salem to face the Demon Deacons at 8.

The Deacons haven’t played a ranked team all year – sure, they played against Xavier and Gonzaga, but those programs are also rebuilding – and yet they stand at 7-9. Georgia Tech is at 7-7, so Wake Forest is the only ACC team below .500 this year. They lost their opener to Stetson, 89-79, and lost to UNC Wilmington and Presbyterian (the Blue Hose!).

This past Saturday, Wake played their first conference game of the year, at NC State, and lost 90-69. Ken Pomeroy ranks them as the 195th best team in the country, only in front of Auburn among schools in Big Six conferences. He gives Maryland (ranked 14th in his ratings) a 94% chance of winning, and predicts the final score will be 85-67. His projected record for them? 9-22, with a 2-14 ACC mark.

Last year, Wake fired Dino Gaudio, who was 61-31 in three season there, and hired Jeff Bzdelik, who was 36-58 in three seasons at Colorado after a successful stint at Air Force. Bzdelik has now managed the rare feat of being on the hot seat in your first year on the job.

At guard, they have three scorers. Freshman J.T. Terrell, 6’3″, is averaging 13.6 points per game (leading the team) and takes a little more than 30% of their shots when he’s on the floor. He is shooting a little over 40% on the year from three, and had a career-high 32 points in the Demon Deacons’ win over Iowa.

Senior Gary Clark, 6’4″, is averaging 11.9 points per game in his first year with significant playing time. He’s made 28 of 44 three pointers this year (63.6%), so that’s something to look out for. Clark ranks ninth in the country in two of kenpom’s stats, effective field goal percentage (where three-pointers are given 50% more credit) and true shooting percentage (which factors in free throws). He is Wake’s most effective offensive player, but does not take nearly the same amount of shots as Terrell (in fact, he ranks fourth on the team in percentage of shots taken).

Sophomore C.J. Harris, 6’3″, is averaging 10.5 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game, and plays the most minutes of any Wake player. He gets to the line a ton, and shoots about 83% from there.

The Demon Deacons have four forwards who get playing time. Travis McKie, 6’7″, is a freshman who is averaging 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. He has four double-doubles on the year, including 22 points and 15 rebounds against Elon. Kenpom ranks him as Wake’s second most effective player offensively, behind Clark.

Sophomore Ari Stewart, 6’7″, is averaging 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game this year. He takes the second-most shots on the team (behind Terrell), but isn’t very effective, shooting around 40% from the floor.

Melvin Tabb, 6’8″, and Nikita Mescheriakov, 6’8″, are role players who come off the bench at forward. That is really all you can say about Melvin Tabb and Nikita Mescheriakov.

Wake’s two excuses for a center are Carson Desrosiers, and Ty Walker, who both have the advantage of being 7 feet tall. Problem is, that’s really all they have going for them. Walker is a good shot blocker – he’s blocking 3.4 shots per game, which works out to 13.8% of the opponent’s shots taken while he’s on the floor (good for ninth in the nation), but is averaging 4.0 points per game in 21.5 minutes. Desrosiers is averaging 4.2 points per game in 16.9 minutes, and had a season-high of 10 points against Winthrop (a game the Deacons lost, naturally).

So the answer to our question, are they really that bad, is yes and no. Yes, Maryland should beat Wake easily, and it really shouldn’t be close. Jordan Williams’ numbers should represent 25 points and 15 rebounds against a team with absolutely no presence on the inside. However, the Deacons shoot well, which has been of weakness of Maryland’s all year, and Wake could make it a game.

Prediction – Maryland 92, Wake 76.