Xavier and Wake Forest were the last two teams coached by Skip Prosser before his untimely death, and both programs still bear evidence of his influence. In honor of his memory, the two schools signed an agreement to play home-and-home on an alternating basis for ten years, beginning in 2010-2011. While that series took a hiatus last season, things are back on track for the series named in remembrance of Coach Prosser.
Having that year break wasn't necessarily a bad thing for Xavier. X was able to land a game with Vanderbilt that turned out to be one of the high points of the early season. With things back on track for the Xavier-Wake Forest series, the Vandy game is also still on for this year, giving Xavier another game against an opponent with prominent appeal outside of the immediate area. Of course, to make these games worth something, Xavier has to be able to continue winning them.
Jeff Bzdelik is entering his third year at Wake Forest, sporting a 21-42 record during his tenure. Bzdelik's teams at Wake haven't been remarkable in any one facet of the game, but it's worth noting that his career - which began at the Air Force Academy - has seen him progress from a slow-tempo coach to one that runs at a fairly quick pace. Offensively, his teams have been just above average at taking care of the ball while being quite poor (321st in the nation over the past two years) at attacking the offensive glass.
Defensively, Wake has been in the top 50 in the country in each of the past two years in blocked shot percentage, but that seems to have been more a function of personnel than style. Bzdelik's teams have been poor at forcing turnovers and protecting the glass, and that trend has continued at Wake. Other than that, nothing really jumps off the page as a signature of Bzdelik's style.
Here's where it gets gruesome for Wake Forest. Five players who played at least 20 games for the Demon Deacons will not be returning to the program this year. Guard Tony Chennault put up 9.0/3.2/2.8 with 1 steal per game on .401/.250/.648 shooting last season. He averaged more than 30 minutes per game as a starting guard but has since transferred to Villanova. Nikita Mescheriakov was a 6'8" forward who averaged 8.0/3.9/1.8 on a less than stellar .378/.234/.738 shooting line last year. He was a very good rebounder on both ends of the floor.
Joining Chennault on the transfer train is Carson Derosiers, who is on his way to Providence. The seven-footer posted 4.8/4.4/0.7, hit 12 of his 35 three-point attempts, and turned away almost ten percent of opponents' shots when he was on the floor. Ty Walker - whose block rate of 13.8% allowed him to swat 2.6 shots per game despite averaging fewer than 20 minutes - graduated, leaving Wake with a very big hole to fill in the middle of the floor. Guard Anthony Fields transferred to Bradley, taking his one point per game average with him and subsequently breaking his hand in practice.
C.J. Harris will be a senior this year; the 6'3" guard's 16.7/3.1/2.5 with 1.1 steals per game came on .477/.422/.844 shooting. Harris can score it from just about anywhere and had the team's best ORtg and second best assist percentage last year. Junior Travis McKie is a 6'7" forward who was good for averages of 16.1/7.0/1.1 on a .478/.379/.737 shooting line last year. The inside-out threat knocked home 33 three-point shots last year while posting solid rebounding percentage numbers.
Chase Fischer is about the only other significant returning player. He averaged 6.3 PPG on .350/.320/.821 as a guard off the bench, knocking down 39 threes along the way. Six-foot-ten forward Daniel Green would have added some much needed interior depth for Bzdelik's squad, but he tore his ACL and is out for the season.
Lots of them. Bzdelik and his staff signed seven freshmen for the upcoming year, including on listed in the ESPN100. That player is Hargrave Military Academy grad Codi Miller-McIntyre. The 6'2" McIntyre is a pure point guard who sees the court well and is an above average passer. He finishes well at the rim, but could use to add another scoring move for when he can't make it all the way to the basket. Cameroon native Arnaud Moto is a 6'6" small forward with explosive athletic ability. He finishes hard in transition or the half court, attacks the glass at both ends, and defends with a high motor. He needs to refine his offensive game and shooting touch, but he has the potential to contribute right away.
Six-foot-eight wing Aaron Rountree is geared towards being a pass-first player and has excellent court vision. His ball-handling and outside scoring could use some work, but he is able to find and make shots in the mid-range. Adding some strength to his 190-pound frame will help him be effective at the college level. Devin Thomas is a 6'7", 225-pound PF who plays like a traditional big man. He works hard on the glass on both ends and has effective post moves, but his game outside the lane needs some work.
The 6'8" Tyler Cavanaugh is the kind of stretch four that killed Xavier last year. He isn't strong or physical around the bucket and needs to fill out, but he has consistent three-point range and is more than capable of using an escape dribble or a step back to get his shot away. Combo guard Madison Jones is a slasher when running the point but has good enough range to move over to the two and knock down jump shots. His biggest problem right now is the need to fill out his 6'1", 165-pound chassis. Finally, Wake signed 6'10", 210-pound center Andre Washington. Washington has the size and skills to become a late-blooming star for the Demon Deacons, but his mental approach to the game needs to develop. Right now, he is too thin and too passive to be a big part of the team, but the potential is there for him to develop into something special.
Obviously, the ability of the freshmen to integrate themselves into the team and get up to speed in a hurry is going to be pivotal in Wake Forest's season. It's not easy to add seven new guys to a group, but the talent is there for this team to challenge programs in the ACC season as things come together. Much like Xavier, the best times are probably still in the future for this club. Unlike Xavier, however, they have more than eight scholarship players to make their way through the current season.