ACC Basketball Preview: Wake Forest

Wake Forest 2015-16 record: 11-20 (2-16 ACC)

Danny Manning’s third season leading the Demon Deacons is an important one, as the team now firmly belongs to him, and results to this point have been underwhelming.

Wake Forest has posted a 24–38 record during Manning’s first two seasons in charge, but he’s recruited well and the roster has enough potential to win some games. But how many?

“I think a lot of it — in the media’s eyes, you look at the wins and you look at the losses, and those are certainly important and that’s ultimately what I’m judged by, but I also understand that it’s a process,” Danny Manning said at Operation Basketball.

“I understand that it’s a journey, and I want to help get our program back to where we think it should be, and we’re moving in that direction.”

Last season’s leading scorer and rebounder Devin Thomas (15.6 points, 10.2 rebounds) is gone as well as versatile guard Codi Miller-McIntyre (9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists) and key role-player Mitchell Wilbekin.

The sophomore class is the strength of the program now and is led by standout Bryant Crawford. Crawford was named to the 2016 All-ACC Freshman Team after averaging 13.8 points and 4.4 assists per game. He led all conference freshmen in assists and steals while routinely showing off his athleticism.

Redshirt sophomore Keyshawn Woods should provide a strong outside shooting threat. The transfer from Charlotte sat out last season after a strong freshman season for the 49ers. In 2014-15 he led Conference USA in three-point shooting at 46.6 percent and averaged 8.4 PPG despite only starting three games.

There’s plenty of size returning up front in the form of 6’10” forward John Collins and 7’1″ center Doral Moore. Collins averaged 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in just 14.4 minutes per game. Moore played far less, but flashed his potential in the second half of the season including his first career start against Boston College when he scored 19 points and pulled down seven rebounds with three blocks.

“John started one game, Doral started one game. And both had career highs in the games they started, so they answered the bell on those particular evenings,” Manning said.

“We’re going to need those two to help anchor the front line this year, and I believe they’re up to the task.”

Konstantinos Mitoglou returns as well and will continue to be a difficult player to defend. The 6’10” junior finished third on the team with 42 three-pointers last season and averaged 9.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest. While not a traditional post player, he’s shown the ability to play inside and still stretch the defense with his range.

Another interesting big man is true freshman Sam Japhet-Mathias. Listed at 6’11”, 280 pounds, the product of London, England should provide some post depth and help fill the void left by Devin Thomas.

Senior transfer Austin Arians should help provide some outside shooting. The 6’6″ forward averaged 11.4 points on 35.3 percent shooting from behind the three-point arc for Milwaukee.

The schedule is generally favorable in ACC play, with Duke the only top tier opponent on the docket twice. 2015-16’s lat place finisher Boston College is also on the schedule twice along with Clemson and N.C. State.

The non-conference schedule includes capable mid-major opponents such as UTEP, Bucknell, Richmond, and Coastal Carolina. A road trip to 20-game winner Northwestern could pose a significant challenge in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge not to mention a road game at Xavier and a home tilt with LSU.

The roster has plenty of talent, but the majority of the players are young. Nine members of the 2016-17 Demon Deacons are sophomores or freshmen and the only senior on the squad is former walk-on and reserve guard Trent VanHorn.

“We’re a young group of guys, but we’re also talented and I feel like we can compete with anybody in the country,” Bryant Crawford said.

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