Want to know more about UNC's Tuesday night opponent Wake Forest? Let's ask Martin Rickman of the Wake Forest blog, Blogger So Dear.
THF: Wake Forest basketball has really been struggling since before Dino Gaudio was fired and it has not improved much (yet) under Jeff Bzdelik. What are your thoughts on the future of the program?
Martin Rickman: Hard to say, really. My thoughts on Jeff Bzdelik are the same now as they were when he was hired after a whopping weekend-long “search” in which fans were misled and the real reasons for the hire were not immediately revealed: it was a mistake. Those who follow Wake were given a whole bunch of buzzwords about culture and post-season success and Bzdelik’s basketball mind, along with pages full of quotes about how pretty Coach Bzdelik was and how everyone loved him.
But the man’s resume told a completely different tale, the story of a head coach who has never committed to one program, has never won an NCAA Tournament game and has bounced around between college and the pros for decades.
As for the future, it partly depends on how long Bzdelik will be here. The class coming in is a good one, but is not exactly a program-saver. Next year brings in six players, including ESPN Top 100 players Codi Miller-McIntyre (PG) and Arnaud Moto (SF). Also in the mix is wing Aaron Rountree, stretch 4 Tyler Cavanaugh, center Andre Washington and big Devin Thomas. CMM, Thomas and Moto will have chances to contribute right away, and there are plenty of minutes to go around if the other three work hard and find their place on the team.
THF: Based on the above assessment do you think another coaching change is in the offing soon or is Ron Wellman committed to ride it out with Bzeldik or will the current recruiting class give him what he needs to get Wake out of the ACC cellar?
MR: The ceiling is not high under Bzdelik. The team might be competitive and possibly fight for a NCAA Tournament berth in 2013-14 and on if he is still here, but they’re never going to be a Top 4 ACC team unless they manage to bring in Top 50 talent (and as of right now, it’s a real longshot they get any of those kinds of players in 2013). The offense Bzdelik runs is a motion offense with a lot of cuts that is extremely complicated and doesn’t result in a ton of points unless it is working perfectly. His teams don’t rebound or defend on the perimeter.
I honestly don’t know if Wellman is going to ride it out with Bzdelik or not. If Bzdelik bolts after this year to take a NBA job as a scout or assistant, that question is answered. If he sticks around to actually see the “Super Six” play, the team is going to have to improve a lot to change fans’ minds. The program has (unfortunately) hedged its bets on this class, and that isn’t exactly fair to them, since they will be freshmen (and freshmen struggle), and none of them are potential one-and-done guys who can carry the team to the NCAAT.
Wake will probably have a tough time again next year, and if they’re still scoring around 60 points a game as they excruciatingly claw their way toward .500 (with six ACC wins) come March, Wellman is going to have a tough call to make.
THF: Now to basketball, looking at Wake Forest's stats, it would appears there are some good parts there. Which players really need to perform well for the Deacs to be successful vs UNC?
MR: All of them. Wake is going to need a career game from everybody to have a shot against the Tar Heels. UNC is deeper, taller, stronger, faster, more athletic and a better basketball team in every facet of the game. It starts with C.J. Harris and Travis McKie, the Demon Deacons’ best players. Both guys will need 15+ points and to shoot a good percentage from the floor. Secondary players like Tony Chennault and Nikita Mescheriakov need to make good decisions. Guys like Carson Desrosiers, Ty Walker and freshman Chase Fischer will need to make an impact.
It’s a tall order from a team that has lost five of its last six games (the win was against an abysmal Boston College team) by an average of 18.8 points.
THF: Ty Walker is averaging 3.0 blocks per game and will be going against one of the best frontlines in the ACC. How much of an impact can he have slowing down Henson and Zeller?
MR: I think Walker will be a big part of this game. He was having a terrific performance against Florida State before leaving the game with a concussion, and he brought a lot of energy against Clemson. When he’s been in this year, he’s shown the kind of promise Wake Forest fans were hoping for when they signed him in the class with Tony Woods and Al-Farouq Aminu. It’s bittersweet, and brings about a lot of “what ifs” regarding Ty.
That said, Walker has to stay out of foul trouble. He’s still limited offensively and if he can hit a couple shots early, he can be a real factor.
THF: People know C.J. Harris and Travis McKie. Who is another player on this team that could step up and have a big game vs the Heels.
MR: We’ve already talked about Walker, so let’s go with Chase Fischer. The freshman has been inconsistent at best, and when he hits his first shot, he usually has a good game. He needs to be more assertive and trust himself more. There are plenty of shots to go around, and every shot Chase takes is one that Chennault and Mescheriakov doesn’t – and that’s a good thing.
THF: How do you see this one unfolding?
MR: UNC and Wake battle a little bit, maybe the Deacs go up 11-10 or something, then Roy calls a timeout, the Deacs commit a silly turnover leading to a Tar Heel dunk. North Carolina goes on a run, dominating the rest of the half and the beginning of the second half before taking its foot off the gas and letting Wake get the score to a more manageable (and somewhat less embarrassing) deficit. UNC wins 86-61.