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Pre-Duel Pleasantries: Wake Forest

Sitting down with Blogger So Dear

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight Xavier faces off with Wake Forest in the Skip Prosser Classic. We have a ton of coverage already on the site previewing the game, so definitely check that out. Before the game we got the chance to sit down with our good buddy Robert Reinhard from Blogger So Dear to talk about the game. Let's see what he had to say.

1.) This Wake Forest team has some good resume wins like UCLA and Indiana, but lost to Richmond and is not very high in the KenPom rankings. How is the temperature in Winston-Salem?

I think a lot of Wake Forest fans are cautiously optimistic. Wake has had some strong wins over Indiana and UCLA. Our point differential is not very good. Wake is 5-0 in games decided by 5 points or fewer, and up until Friday's win over Coastal Carolina, Wake Forest had only outscored its opponents by 3 or 4 points combined. There's also a lot of room for improvement on the defensive end.

That said, Wake Forest just got back Codi Miller-McIntyre for the past two games. He missed the first seven game of the season with a fractured foot. Cornelius Hudson and Rondale Watson missed the first five games of the season due to suspension. Bryant Crawford missed the UCLA game due to the flu, so Wake Forest won that game without a point guard. Wake was also playing walk-on Trent Van Horn more than 20 minutes per game. So, despite all of this, Wake is still 8-2. The Ken Pom ranking is certainly concerning, but I'm willing to give the Deacs the benefit of the doubt because they have not had their full complement of players for basically the entire season. Wake's next four games are against Xavier, LSU, Louisville, and Duke. I believe Wake fans will know a lot more about the team at that time.

2.) How good is Devin Thomas, and how can Xavier stop him?

Devin is quite good. He has been a good player for the Deacs for each of his first three seasons, but he has improved greatly this season. Entering Friday's game against Coastal Carolina he was averaging more than 18 points and 11 rebounds per contest. He has gotten in better shape, and has gotten a lot more skilled with his right hand. He has also done a much better job of keeping his composure, which has been a problem for him in the past.

The best way to stop him is to force him to his right, but he has done a better job of finishing with his right hand this season. Another way to stop him is to put him on the foul line. If a team has fouls to give to its big men, I'm not saying intentionally foul, but he is shooting just 56% from the line on the year. Over the past two games, however, he  has gone 8-22.

3.) Who do you think is going to have a big impact on this game?

On the Wake Forest side, I expect Devin Thomas, John Collins, and Codi Miller-McIntyre to have strong outings. Devin and Collins will be needed to grab boards, and I think Codi is coming into his own. I think he'll have the opportunity to make a few defensive plays and get Wake some transition opportunities.

For Xavier, I'll go way out on a limb and say Trevon Bluiett. His three point shooting is exceptional, and I'm concerned about our defense offering help from one pass away and leading to open shots from deep.

4.) This game is always special for us because of Skip Prosser. What was your favorite memory of him, or favorite story that you have heard?

I did not become a Wake Forest fan until the fall of 2008 when I began my freshman year at Wake Forest. Unfortunately, I did not get to experience that Wake Forest basketball program under Skip Prosser. I've heard nothing but outstanding things about Skip. Everything from his love of reading, quoting Shakespeare, being a father-figure to players such as Josh Howard. To driving out to a student sleep out the night before the game and delivering donuts to the students. A friend of mind attended Skip's basketball camp when he was at Xaiver, and told me he had an exceptional experience. Skip named him the "Musketeer of the Week" or something like that, and attended each one of his games. That kind of commitment to a 10-year old at a camp is special and I believe speaks volumes of Skip's character.

My favorite "Skipism" is when he said, "Never delay gratitude." I believe that's a message that we can all take with us. You never know how many days you truly have left, so don't let an opportunity to give thanks go empty.

5.) How do you see this game going? Who wins?

I think this is going to be a very physical and intense game. Both teams rely on rebounding the ball, so I anticipate a lot of boxing out and a lot of flying to the basketball. I'm hopeful (and optimistic) that Wake's players and fans understand the importance of this game and will be ready to participate in a great game. I'll go with my head over my heart and say that Xavier edges out Wake in a close one. Xavier wins 80-76.

Thanks again Robert. If you want to check out my responses to his questions, look here.