Boston College and Wake Forest were two of the worst ACC men's basketball programs last season and the Deacs' recent string of futility goes back a season further than the Eagles. Because misery loves company, we had the opportunity to talk Eagles-Deacs with the guys over at Blogger So Dear. In return, I answered some questions on BC shootyhoops over at BSD.
Our questions and BSD's answers follow.
BC Interruption: Wake Forest followed up a close loss to UConn with a 94-68 blowout loss to Iona and a three point win over Mercer in this year's Paradise Jam. Ostensibly not a great holiday tournament for the Deacs. Recently, Wake has come on strong, winners of five of their last seven, including a close loss to the Hall. What has been the difference in the Deacons play now compared to the early season?
Blogger So Dear: One of Wake's biggest challenges this year is overcoming a young team to be competitive throughout the season. Wake returned only four players from the team last year (including big man Daniel Green who tore his ACL in the preseason) due to transfers and graduation. As such the Deacs had a seven man freshman class which takes time to turn into a team.
Over the past few games Wake has really committed themselves to making improvements on the defensive end. In the last seven games Wake has only allowed offenses to surpass the 100.0 (one point per possession) mark one time, and it was against Duke in Cameron. Wake is 5-2 over this stretch, including a loss at home to Seton Hall in a game the Deacs lead by 13 points with just over 10 minutes left before falling by four 71-67.
On the offensive end there has been a larger contribution from the plethora of freshmen to compliment the continued offensive firepower from senior C.J. Harris and junior Travis McKie. The continuing problem is finding a third option to supplement these two guys and different guys have stepped up to the plate. Point guard Codi Miller-McIntyre has had a couple of solid games while fellow freshman Devin Thomas has been a monster on the glass gobbling up rebounds.
If Wake can continue to work hard on defense, find a solid third and fourth option, and allow the team to naturally mature as the season progresses I believe this team can win a few conference games and maybe even spring an upset or two.
BCI: Travis McKie and C.J. Harris dismantled Boston College in two Wake Forest victories last season -- 71-56 in Boston and 85-56 down in Winston-Salem. If worrying about McKie and Harris wasn't enough, who else should BC be worried about doing some damage today against the Eagles?
BSD: As discussed in the previous question, Wake doesn't really have a solid number three guy who constantly threatens the opposition. Sophomore sharpshooter Chase Fischer is a guy that defenses must always keep an eye on when he is on the floor because of his long distance prowess (20-40 on the season from outside), as well as playmaker Miller-McIntyre who uses his athleticism to get down the lane off the dribble.
Teams have struggled to keep Devin Thomas off the glass, but he has had issues finding his offensive touch and is probably the worst offensive player we have right now. Another guy who teams must look out for is utility man Aaron Rountree who has the ability to impact the game on both sides of the floor. His long arms and high basketball IQ coupled with his all out hustle make him a serious defensive menace. Look for the Deacs to run a three-quarter press and lots of sideline traps when Rountree is in the game with Tree guarding the point.
BCI: BC and Wake Forest hoops have been on the downslide for a number of years now. Where do you see Wake Forest fitting in among the programs in the ACC right now -- upper 1/3, mid-tier or bottom 1/3? How does where you think the program should be in the conference change with the additions of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame?
BSD: Wake's definitely in the bottom third of the conference right now alongside Boston College and Virginia Tech. On the bright side Wake and BC both appear to be on the upswing over the past few games while Virginia Tech is in rampant free fall. Wake also has a couple of solid recruits coming in next year in Greg McClinton and Miles Overton. The gem of Bzdelik's recruiting thus far though committed just this past week when 2014 point guard Shelton Mitchell pledged to be a Deacon. Mitchell is the 5th ranked point guard in the class and the 20th best player overall.
Wake is absolutely better this year than the past two years, but to be honest that wasn't hard to do. This team is definitely headed in a positive direction and I'm excited about the freshman class we have.
BCI: How hot is Jeff Bzzzzz's [Ed. note -- yeah, not spelling that. For whatever reason, I have a better shot at spelling Krzyzewski right than Bzzzzz] seat right now? Has he bought himself more time with wins in five of the last seven, including a victory over the second best team in the conference? Give me your best guess as to whether he is the long-term answer for Wake Forest basketball, or if the program will go in a different direction in a few years.
BSD: Bzdelik's seat is in Dante's 9th circle of hell right now. I would venture a conservative guess that 98% of the fan base wants him fired yesterday. In all seriousness, calling Bzdelik's seat "hot" is a gross injustice to other coaches who have an opportunity to win back their fan base. Bzdelik has no opportunity to do so unless Wake goes on a remarkable run this year, because quite frankly he has no chance to ever win the PR battle.
I agree with most of the fan base in that I absolutely do not think he is the long-term answer. He's come in and cleaned house (though it's debatable if this was needed at all) and there are positive signs moving forward. Unfortunately it's difficult to sit here and say that Bzdelik is the guy who should be moving forward with these positive signs. Bzdelik will probably get another year, but that's most likely only because Wellman has staked his claim in this hire. Which leads to the next question nicely...
BCI: Wake Forest A.D. Ron Wellman recently came under fire for comments made about Jeff Bzzzzzz performance. (We've certainly grown used to an athletic director making ridiculous claims and saying incredibly stupid things in recent years). Has the fan base turned down the heat on Wellman following the Deacs' string of victories? Do you think this is a situation where the A.D. is staking his career on this hire?
BSD: Ron Wellman has basically put all his eggs in one basket behind Jeff Bzdelik. Wellman's comments lately reveal that he is out of touch with the majority of the fan base and as you all probably well know, has really bred a large amount of contempt from passionate fans who want the best for the program.
At this point most of the fans just want Wake to win any kind of game and are looking for anything to grab onto for hope. These wins haven't changed much of anything about how people feel about Bzdelik or Wellman to be honest. People are so down right now that it would take a lot for the tide to turn back for Wellman. A great start for Wellman to get back in people's good graces would be to fire Bzdelik at the end of the year, but it's hard to say whether or not he is willing to do that.
He may just be playing the PR game during the season and is going to fire Bzz at the end of the year, but no one would be too surprised if he honestly believes Bzdelik is the long-term answer. If you look at Wellman's firing practices, he typically gives coach's a long leash and Bzdelik is HIS guy. So all-in-all that's pretty frustrating I suppose.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. How's this game go down and a final score prediction.
BSD: I think it's a good game and I think BC has a good chance to claim a road win. I think Wake wins 68-64 and McKie scores 20 to go with 8 rebounds. Ryan Anderson is going to dominate us because we don't have the ability to stop guys in the post as we primarily focus on not giving up open jumpers and open shots around the perimeter. If Anderson gets hot we could be in a lot of trouble and the matchup we have to control is him getting good looks inside early and then creating kick out shots for wide open 3's which can kill us.
Thanks as always! It's always a pleasure working with you guys and we love the website.
BCI: Thanks to BJohnston for being so generous with his time and answering some questions on Wake basketball.