What will be starting this weekend will come to an end during the Yuletide season as Xavier's non-conference slate winds down. Ranked as the best non-con in the Big East by Blogging the Bracket, Xavier first season will give them plenty of opportunities to prove they belong with the game's elite. Wake had stagnated badly under Dino Gaudio; now they're trying to prove that up-and-coming head coach Danny Manning has the program headed in the right direction once more.
Danny Manning, as previously mentioned, runs the show at Wake. After putting together a 39-28 record in two years at Tulsa, Manning jumped ship from C-USA to the ACC. His first season at Wake ended with a 13-19 record from a team that was really deep (74th in the nation in bench minutes) and really young (304th in experience).
Manning's offenses run at a breakneck pace, landing in the top 100 all three years he's coached and hitting 26th in tempo last season. They stay in attack mode, generally eschewing the arc but doing well at getting to the free throw line. Offensive rebounding and ball security have been inconsistent to the point at which it's tough to draw too many conclusions from the numbers.
Defensively, the first thing that jumps out is a commitment to shutting down the glass, with all three teams landing in the top 100 in DReb% and last year's ending the season at 22nd. Teams shot pretty well against Wake last year, and they didn't force a ton of turnovers. That's not a recipe for ongoing success.
The only graduate of consequence was 6'9" forward Darius Leonard, who put up a line of 5.7/2.5/0.3 and .392/.304/.478, which isn't very good. What also isn't very good is getting behind the wheel of a car drunk, which is what guard Madison Jones did. He and his 4.7/2.3/3.0 were invited to leave campus after that little stunt.
Everyone else is back, led by rising senior G Codi Miller-McIntyre and his 14.5/4.8/4.3 line from a season ago. He's not a great shooter - .450/.284/.644 - but the boy was 57th in that nation with a 32.2% assist rate, rebounds well for a guard, and takes care of the ball. Joining him is 6'9" rising senior forward Devin Thomas. Like Miller-McIntyre he's a below-average shooter, but he posted a game line of 12.0/8.8/1.6 and is a monster on the glass at both ends.
Konstantinos Mitoglou - who I'm told is called the Greek Deac - is a 6'10" rising sophomore who posted a cool 9.7/4.6/0.4 on .442/.385/.718 shooting as a freshman. He had the team highest ORtg last year and figures to be a legitimate matchup problem. Cornelius Hudson is another rising sophomore forward; he averaged 7.5/3.1/1.1 (good) on .358/.319/.719 shooting (bad). His problem is more shot selection than ability; he may be a candidate for a big jump in efficiency.
Rising sophomore guard Mitchell Wilbekin shot .363/.386/.732 on his way to 7.2/2.3/1.6 per game; as long as he doesn't get too close to the rim, he should be fine this year. With five guys who average 7+ PPG last year returning, Wake looks to be in good shape in that regard.
If a team signs a seven footer, you kind of have to lead off with him. Doral Moore is every bit of 7' tall and possesses a solid set of offensive skills in the middle. He's also a good area rebounder and uses his length to great effect in blocking shots. He needs to get stronger, but that's a whole lot easier than getting taller.
The relatively diminutive John Collins measures out between 6'8" and 6'10" - depending on who you ask - and went for 20 and 10 as a senior in high school. He is also a good rebounder and can score from the block or in mid-range with a solid face-up game. Bryant Crawford, also a four-star recruit, is a 6'3" point guard. He has a good shot from distance and passes the ball well, but he struggles to get into the middle and finish. He is a strong and active defender on the ball.
When Coach Prosser left Xavier for Wake, it was indisputably a step up. If Coach Mack had done the same when Wake's job opened last year, it would have been almost as indisputably a step down. Now Danny Manning has a really exciting young squad already in place and some very talented pieces coming to campus this season. The Demon Deacons are moving back towards the top of the ACC, and Xavier's schedule will be better for it.