After former Xavier and Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser passed away, the two schools chose to commemorate the work that he did with a ten-year contract to play one another in basketball. After a hiatus last year for undisclosed reasons, the game is back on this year. The teams combined for 30 wins and zero postseasons last year, and both will (obviously) be looking to improve on their respective showings this season.
It's hard to figure out exactly what Jeff Bzdelik is as a coach (though our SBN brothers over at Wake Forest's Blogger So Dear would be happy to suggest some things, I'm sure). At Air Force for two years, he racked up 50 wins while playing at an almost unbelievably slow pace and with incredible offensive efficiency. At Colorado for three seasons after that, he got progressively faster in averaging a dozen wins per campaign. Now entering his fourth year at Wake, he has gotten faster still and has 34 wins in three seasons to show for it. Take from that what you will.
Wake's offenses under Bzdelik haven't done anything particularly well. They turned the ball over like it was covered in hot lard last year and were very poor on the offensive glass. The Deacons were an above-average 3P% team, but they failed to leverage that by being 272nd in three-point shooting frequency. They were also the 23rd-best team in the nation in getting to the line but the 215th-best in converting from the stripe.
At the other end, Wake cobbled together a bunch of mediocre features into an above-average team in defensive efficiency. Neither their three-point nor two-point percentage defense was anything to write home about (unless you were putting together a letter to your folks about things that were 271st and 242nd in the nation, respectively), but they blocked almost 11% of opponents' two-point shots and denied frequent looks from deep. They were also a tick above average on the defensive glass.
The good news is that Wake only lost one starter. The bad news is that it was guard C.J. Harris, an offensive dynamo who made his money (as it were) by knocking down jumpers from all over. Not one to was his time with silly things like rebounds and ball distribution, Harris led the team in scoring with a line of 15.4/2.3/1.9 on .452/.431/.847 shooting. He led the team in minutes, ORtg, usage rate, EFG%, field goals, free throws, and three-pointers. Basically, the buck stopped with him on the offensive end.
The other departure is reserve guard Chase Fischer, who decided his last two years of eligibility would be better used in service to the BYU basketball squad. Fischer only played 14 minutes per game, but he averaged 4.5 points thanks to his .422 mark from beyond the arc. With his departure, the team doesn't bring back a meaningful shooter who hit even a third of his three-point attempts last year.
Bzdelik brings back three rising sophomore starters from one of the youngest teams in the nation last year. The one who got the biggest minutes was guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who put up 8.1/2.7/2.6 on .414/.323/.565 while doing a fairly serviceable job of running the point. He actually led the team in assists per game and coupled that with an assist rate of 19.4%, which is quite good for a first-year player. Miller-McIntyre is adept at getting his own shot as well as setting up his teammates and looks to be the team's go-to perimeter player this year.
Farther inside, 6'9", 240-pound forward Devin Thomas went for 9.1/7.5/1.3 with a shooting line of .498/.000/.551. He also added 1 steal and 1.4 blocks per game. Thomas is a high--energy player, posting top-200 reb% on both ends and a block% of 5.2% (183 in the country). He did a great job of drawing fouls (4.8 per 40 minutes) and a miserable job of capitalizing (55.1% from the line). Thomas shot 60% on play around the rim but connected on just 22% of his jumpers. Arnaud William Adala Moto rounds out the rising sophomores who started last year. The forward stands 6'6", 225, took more than half his shots at the rim, and still managed to put up a miserable .404/.167/.598 shooting line on his way to 5.6/3.9/0.5 per game.
Rising senior Travis McKie will be the main cog in the Wake Forest machine this year. At 6'7", 220, he can contribute in a variety of ways, as attested to by his 13.5/7.0/1.2 line on .450/.320/.760 shooting. He posted a DReb% of 19.4% last year, blocked 3.1% of opponents' two-point attempts, and drew nearly five fouls per game. He also pitched in 1.4 steals and 1 block per game.
Man, this team is bringing back a lot of dudes.
Forward Tyler Cavanaugh is another rising sophomore. He measures out at 6'9", 230, and went for a very respectable 5.0/2.5/0.5 on a completely unrespectable .318/.237/.759 shooting line. "How is that possible?" you may have blurted out aloud at your desk when you first saw that. Well, nearly 63% of his shots were jumpers despite the fact that he hit only 31% of his two-point jumpers and 24% of his three-point attempts. More alarmingly, he shot just 41% on dunks, layups, and tip-ins. That's how that's possible.
Reserve guard Madison Jones played just 18 minutes per game but led the team with a 22.6% assist rate and 3.9% steal%. If Bzdelik needs someone to run the show and be a pest on defense without needing too many shots, Jones is his man. Forward Aaron Rountree III was mostly unspectacular in his 10 minutes per game but posted respectable reb% numbers and a very good 8.7% block%. Both players will be sophomores this year.
Immediately eligible Robert Morris transfer Coron Williams is a 6'1", 175-pound sharpshooting guard. He averaged 8.9 points and hit 210 threes in his career at RMU, including going 2-4 from deep in the team's win against UK in the NIT last year. He hit six threes and scored 24 in Wake's exhibition game and will be expected to be a microwave scorer for the Demon Deacons this year.
Greg McClinton is one of two incoming freshmen this year at Wake. The 6'6", 185-pound wing is a good athlete who makes big-time plays in transition. He has the physical tools to be a good defender and rebounder as well. Most of his offense is around the basket at this point, as his game needs some refining. He tore his ACL in January but is progressing very well and will figure into the Deacons' picture this year.
Miles Overton is a 6'3" guard who is mostly a catch-and-shoot player at this point. He has a great stroke from the perimeter and consistent range out beyond the arc, but he struggles against pressure defense and isn't explosively quick. He has a stout body and can play through contact, but quicker players give him trouble on both ends.
Bzdelik has lived on the hot seat from day one at Wake, and this year is no different. He aggressively deployed his young players last year, and while that showed up in the results, he is basically betting his job on the idea that it laid the groundwork for a bright future. If the cream of that seven-man sophomore class can step up and show his faith in them was well-placed, this is a team that could surprise some folks. If not, Bzdelik is going to be out on his can after another disappointing season at Wake Forest.