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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Wake Forest

Wake's history with Xavier basically peaked when they hired Skip.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Wake Forest
He does this a lot.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Skip Prosser Classic continues this year, as Xavier will host Wake Forest during the non-conference season. If Xavier were in the same position a couple of decades back as it is now, maybe Skip never leaves, but instead he spread his legacy from the A10 to the ACC before his untimely passing. As much as it stung to see the back of him, it's hard to argue that more people rubbing elbows with Skip is a bad thing.

Last time these teams played, Wake rushed out to a pretty hefty lead before Xavier charged back behind Edmond Sumner to take the game by its throat and ultimately leave Winston-Salem with a fairly comfortable win. That was part of a brutal back half of the season for the Demon Deacons, as they saw an 8-2 mark before Xavier's visit transform into an 11-20 record to end the season. Wake comes into this year with higher expectations as Danny Manning tries to lead the team back to the prominence it once enjoyed.

Coach/style:

Danny Manning got his start at Tulsa, but it took him just two years to attract a better offer. The defining characteristic of his coaching style on offense is that he likes to play fast. His teams haven't been terribly efficient, but boy are they entertaining. Manning teams have a knack for getting to the line, but they've usually turned the ball over a bunch and sported less than impressive shooting marks from inside and outside the arc. He has never had a team finish in the top 150 in EFG%. His teams share the ball but play too fast and loose to be impressive offensively.

On the defensive end, it has been a steady show of mediocrity. His one good defensive team was in his last year at Tulsa, which was also the only year he has taken a team to the NCAA tournament. He strategically concedes the arc and eschews forcing turnovers, favoring instead an approach the seals off the glass (except for last year, when Wake was 250th in DReb%). His teams have also managed to be below average in two-point defense, which has made them fairly permeable for opponents.

Departures:

The big one here is forward Devin Thomas, who exhausted his eligibility. He put up a cool 15.6/10.2/2.4 per game on .542/.000/.584 shooting and led the team in usage rate. He also led the team and finished in the top 200 in the nation in OReb%, DReb%, and block%. To cap it all off, he also drew 7.1 fouls per 40 minutes, which would have been even better if he weren't such a gruesome free throw shooter. Thomas brought a lot of value to this team, and they're going to have a tough time replacing him.

Codi Miller-McIntyre - who it has felt like to me has been in college forever - also played his four years and took off. He never quite developed into the stud he was billed as coming out of high school; while he led the team in assist rate as a senior, he still posted an ORtg of just 98.6 thanks to too many turnovers and a .413/.326/.656 shooting line, taking the shine off of his 9.4/4.5/4.0 game line. Sophomore wing Cornelius Hudson is also gone, dismissed 21 games into last year for a violation of athletic department policy. That policy may have had something to do with shot selection, judging by his 41.8% EFG%. He landed at D2 Angelo State.

Returnees:

Coming back in the front court are a pair of 6'10" big men. Konstantinos Mitoglou weighs in at 245 pounds and posted a 9.2/5.4/0.7 game line on .427/.318/.767 shooting last year. He's good around the basket and on the offensive glass, but that 42-132 from deep really dragged his efficiency down. John Collins is twenty pounds lighter and dropped 7.3/3.9/0.2 in just 14.4 minutes per game last year. His .547/.000/.691 and a stingy TO rate helped him to a team-leading 110.3 ORtg. He's a good rebounder at both ends and could break out if he drops the 7.3 fouls per 40 minutes that limited his playing time last year.

In the backcourt are Bryant Crawford and Mitchell Wilbekin. Crawford is an almost confusingly bad shooter from inside the arc, but he gobbled down possessions on his way to 13.8/3.0/4.4 last year. His usage rate and assist and turnover numbers aren't that different that Miller-McIntyre's were, and he's just heading into his sophomore year. If he can clean up that .394/.348/.681 shooting line, he'll be a serious weapon. Wilbekin's not a super dynamic player, but he put up 7.3 PPG last year and hit 34% of his threes. He was also miserable from inside the arc, but he never turns the ball over and jars 85% of his free throws.

Seven-foot center Doral Moore was a top-100 recruit but posted underwhelming numbers last year. He can score the ball from inside and mid-range, but his engagement has been questioned at times. He flashed potential as a scorer and rim protector last year.

Incoming players:

Four of them, the most interesting (to me) of whom is Samuel Japhet-Mathis. He's a 6'11", 240-pound center from London, England. He's got great offensive skills on the block, with the ability to score with either hand and distribute. Beyond that, he's not super athletic, not a great defender or rebounder, and needs to get in better shape. When he hits the national scene in a couple of years wearing bowties and driving for Uber, don't say you weren't warned.

Brandon Childress is a 6'0" point guard out of Winston-Salem. He has a good basketball IQ and can run the team in transition and the half court. He tends to get a little over-fancy with the ball at times, but he can hit out to the arc and has a solid floater. He has the chance to develop into a very solid point guard. The other guard in the class is Richard Washington, Jr. He's a 6'5" lefty mostly known for his streak shooting. When he gets hot, they fall in bunches, but he can also go stone cold and tends to play solely as a catch-and-shoot guy against better defenders. Word is he's also not overly committed on the defensive end.

The final member of the class is 6'7" stretch four Donovan Mitchell. He has a really solid stroke and good range on his jumper, but he is in desperate need of added bulk to be able to compete in the paint.

Outlook:

KenPom has Wake easily in the top 100 right now, but I'm not sure I see it.