We had the opportunity to exchange emails with Blogger So Dear's John Mundy over the festive week in an effort to pick his brain regarding what makes Wake tick and what Xavier needs to do to shut them down. We hit him with five questions, and he came back with five answers (plus some questions of his own that we'll cover this afternoon).
Banners on the Parkway: Even with the students on break, the Cintas Center can be a tough place to play. Are you concerned about this being Wake's first true road game?
Blogger So Dear: I'm concerned about any road game for Wake Forest, until this team can prove that their road woes (just 3 wins in the Bzdelik era) are a thing of the past. Jeff Bzdelik steadfastly insists that last season's performance on the road was due to youth, so this is a huge opportunity for the Deacs to start changing minds here in ACC country.
BotP: Xavier's last two opponents (Cincinnati and Alabama) have been defensive-minded teams with limited offenses, and X has been able to crack them. What does Wake bring to the table on defense to slow Xavier down?
BSD: Well, it helps that Wake Forest wants to run. The pace of the game isn't going to bother the Deacs so much. Wake Forest starts their transition offense with their defense, and if the Deacs start creating turnovers early, the Musketeers could find themselves in a hole. The main problem I see is that their best defender Aaron Rountree, brings little offensively save for some highlight film-quality dunks. I anticipate a low-scoring affair, but then again I anticipated Wake to destroy UNC Greensboro.
BotP: Codi Miller-McIntyre has made a big jump from his frankly mediocre freshman campaign. How has his game evolved, and what does Xavier need to do to slow him down?
BSD: Codi, as well as the other Demon Deacon guards, have been helped by the addition of Wake Forest legend Randolph Childress to the coaching staff. Before this offseason, Miller-McIntyre had never been a true student of the game, and he spent most of his down-time after the ACC Tournament watching film, learning about the game.
In addition, he worked on his body to become stronger and more athletic- the better to endure a rough ACC league schedule. The changes are evident, as he is more aggressive to the rim and assertive in his decision-making. His only trouble comes when he starts "thinking" the game, which is when coach Childress steps in to get that stopped.
Right now the only way to stop him is to cut off his driving lanes to the basket, which is where he wants to be. If he's shooting lots of jumpers, I'd say that Xavier's D is effective.
BotP: Is Miller-McIntyre the key to Wake's offensive efforts, or can the Demon Deacons win with him being off his game?
BSD: I don't know about him being the key, but I know that if he's a non-factor then the Deacs are going to struggle mightily. They almost took an unimaginable loss last week to UNC Greensboro, but Miller-McIntyre scored 9 points in the last five minutes or so to help seal the win. I'd say the "key" player, every game, is senior Travis McKie. He's shown flashes, but he needs to be very good every game if the Deacs hope to make a postseason tournament.
BotP: Jeff Bzdelik averaged just over 11 wins in his first three seasons en route to becoming persona non grata at Wake; has this year's hot start done anything to change your outlook on him as a coach?
BSD: I'd say the jury is still out- way out. Now, personally, I'm not in the same camp regarding Bzdelik as most of my staff and most of the fans. I don't know that he's the guy to lead the Deacs back to prominence, but I disregard his first two seasons because he inherited a dumpster fire. Many fans and alums believe he created the fire, or at least help stoke it.
This season's record has been padded with wins over teams they should have beaten, so the record should be right where it is. However, they used to lose some of those games, so I'd say that's progress.
BotP: Fill in the blank: if Xavier ____________, they'll win this game.
BSD: Shuts down Codi Miller-McIntyre completely and shoots over 40% from the three-point line.