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Basketball Preview: Wake Forest

It turns out there's another revenue generating collegiate sport on the horizon, and one that apparently UNC is expected to do well in. Who knew? I'll have to take a look and see if Carolina has a history of this sort of thing.

Either way, I'll be taking a look over the next couple of weeks at the other 11 teams in the ACC, Big Ten Wonk-lite style. I'll spit them out in whatever order it occurs to me to do so, and I'll start with a team currently enjoying unexpected football fortunes, solely to make myself feel better. So without further ado, the Demon Deacons:

Last Year: Wake was a team that had just sent their All-American point guard Chris Paul to the NBA, and graduated a trio of important seniors. But they still had Eric Williams and Justin Levy, and the ACC was down as a whole, so how bad could they be?

17-17 bad. Last place in the ACC at 3-13 bad. First round loss in the NIT bad. The Demon Deacons also plumbed new depths in defensive futility, giving up a league high 1.14 opposition points per possession. Yes, it's a strange geek number, but it's a really bad strange geek number. Trust me.

Comings and Goings: If their head's aren't still aching from their 2006 hangover, they get to face the new season without Eric Williams (C, 16.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg), Justin Gray (G, 18.2 ppg, 4.3 apg), Trent Strickland (F, 11.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg), and Chris Ellis (F, 5.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg), who collectively were four-fifths of Wake's starting lineup.

This leaves a team with two seniors and a host of underclassmen. The seniors, Michael Drum (F, 5.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg) and Kyle Visser (C, 5.0 ppg, 4.3 ppg) have been role players at best. The sophomore with the most court time, Harvey Hale (G, 5.6 ppg, 2 apg) alternated with Gray at the point most of the time.

A couple of other folks got playing time under the radar last year. Shamaine Dukes (G, 1.3 ppg, 1.0 apg) got the occasional start at point guard, and Kevin Swinton (F, 2.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Cameron Stanley (F, 2.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg) were good for some minutes off the bench. And that's everyone on the Demon Deacon roster that's played a second of college basketball.

So where is Wake going to restock the pond? The assumed starting point guard is Ishmael Smith, a 5'11" freshman guard known for his speed and garnering hopeful comparisons to Paul. They gain another shooting guard in Anthony Gurley and a power forward in 6'8" Jamie Skeen who are expected to get a fair amount of playing time. Finally there's a 7'0" center in Chas McFarland, who played his way out of a plan to be redshirted. He can duke it out with redshirt freshman David Weaver, who at 6'10" put up good numbers in Bahaman summer exhibition games. Of course, no one on the Bahaman teams was over 6'5".

The Outlook: A team usually doesn't get out of the cellar by graduating the bulk of its talent, so it's no surprise a lot of folks are picking the Deacons dead last. They've done a good job with scheduling, staying close to home and inviting local schools they're used to crushing into town to get their sea legs. They're skipping the Big 10 challenge, and meeting middling majors Georgia and DePaul in December to get a taste of real basketball. It all comes down to how quickly the freshmen acclimate to college ball and whether the group of also-rans used to the uniform evolve into leaders and starters. This is a team that's almost guaranteed to to surprise simply by the virtue of having such low expectations, but Wake Forest fans should enjoy football now, because it's going to be a long winter.

  • Preseason Poll Finish: 10th, probably too high.
  • Carolina March Forecast: 4-12 in the ACC. No postseason.
  • MP3 Summary: The Long Winters, "Pushover"