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Know your non-conference opponent: Wake Forest

The team with the strangest mascot in the land has struggled for consistent relevance.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Miami-Florida vs Wake Forest
The correct reaction to watching Wake last year
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Skip Prosser Classic and the Crosstown Shootout are counterpoints to one another in the world of college basketball. One is a rivalry game that constantly walks, or crosses, the line that separates a basketball game from a fight. The second is a celebration of the man who did a great deal to make Xavier the dominant force in the rivalry in this century. That this hasn’t become a matchup of marquee teams lands squarely on the shoulders of the men who have followed Skip at Wake.

Last season Wake Forest missed the NCAA tournament for the eighth time since 2010. Since Skip Prosser’s tragic passing, the Demon Deacons have made the tournament just three times. If you buy into KenPom’s program ranks, Wake has slipped to 57th, behind teams like Arkansas, Missouri, and even some teams from the American. The momentum of the 2016-17 squad that earned an 11 seed has been lost.

Since 2015 Danny Manning has been at the head of Wake. Manning has played fast, played slow, emphasized offense, and tried shooting a lot of threes. The only consistent factors have been bad defense and losing.

Key Departures:

Jaylen Hoard left after an effective (13.1/7.6/1/5) but inefficient (99.7 ORtg) freshman year. As the Demon Deacons highest usage player there is no question he is a big loss, but he also happens to be the only one. Beyond Hoard, Manning returns the core of a team that went 11-20. The good news for the returnees is that they have a nice new arena to play bad basketball in.

Key Returnees:

Literally everyone else. Brandon Childress is a six foot guard who never rests and went for 14.7/3.8/4.0 with a 107.3 efficiency last year. He’s the real deal and scores well at the line and behind the arc. 6-5 forward Chaundree Brown isn’t as good a shooter from deep as Childress, but he got 11.9/5.0/1.2 by being effective on the glass and nails (84%) at the line. With Hoard, those two made the nucleus of a good team.

Basketball currently mandates that you play more than three guys, though, and the rest of the depth on the Demon Deacons just isn’t at the level of the stars. I’ve already listed everyone who was above average offensively last year. Sharone Wright, another 6-5 swing, scored 7.1 per game but shot .410/.317/.554 to do it. Isaiah Mucius is a whip thin 6-8 forward who posted an 87.8 efficiency in 21.8 minutes per game. Returning grad senior Torry Johnson is a guard who is good from the line, decent behind the arc, and turns the ball over on over a quarter of the possessions he uses. Olivier Sarr is a seven footer who is effective on offense and blocks 5.4% of opponent’s shots. Beyond that, and all respect to these guys, it’s a wasteland.

Incoming Players:

Andrien White transferred from Charlotte and is eligible this year. In his last season as a 49er, White scored 15 per game, shot 80% from the line, and posted a 106 offensive efficiency. He’s not a great perimeter shooter, but he’s not afraid to lift. Miles Lester transfers in from Rice, where he shot 37.7% behind the arc. Ismeal Massoud, a power forward, is Wake’s only recruit rated above two stars.

Outlook:

Danny Manning only lost one guy, but he was an important guy. Unless one of the freshman plays well abover his recruiting level of Andrien White becomes a serious force, there’s nothing here to suggest Wake is tracking down the rest of the ACC pack any time soon.