It may be a little early, but I can't shake the feeling that Jeff Bzdelik is the worst ACC coaching hire of the 2000's. Wake gave up on Dino Gaudio pretty early, firing him after a 20-11 season from a team that was bounced in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Almost all of the starters left with Gaudio, so it wasn't too much of a surprise that the Demon Deacons struggled last season, but a 1-15 conference record and 8-24 mark overall was shockingly bad. This was the worst team in a major conference last season. Can Bzdelik really rebuild it?
Well, he already as double the conference wins of last season, inexplicably beating Virginia Tech at home and handily defeating Boston College on the road. They've also lost by 36 to N.C. State, and 28 to also-bad Arizona State. If this team is succeeding more this year, it's a 50-50 split between their improvement and the rest of the conference getting worse.
This team revolves around forward Travis McKie. He's the leading rebounder, second-leading scorer, and takes considerably more shots than anyone else on the floor. He was also held to seven points and four turnovers in his freshman meeting against the Heels; facing John Henson will do that to you. While McKie is comfortable drifting out to the perimeter, tonight he'll be tangling with Harrison Barnes more. I expect the Wake forward to have a very frustrating evening.
C.J. Harris, on the other hand, may have more success. He leads the team in scoring, threes, and assists, despite typically not playing the point. He also had little success against Carolina last season, but has improved his shooting considerably in the offseason. I'd point to him as the big threat, not unlike Lorenzo Brown at State and Glen Rice at Georgia Tech. UNC handled them both quite well.
Wake mostly fills out the team with an assortment of big men, which makes their poor rebounding performance particularly surprising. That's changed a bit since Ty Walker, suspended for the fall semester, returned in January. He's second on the team in rebounding and first in blocks, but has been rather absent on the offensive end. He did have four blocks in Wake's last meeting with the Heels, however. He's typically paired with Nikita Mescheriakov, who at 6'8" has supplanted seven-footer Carson Derosiers. It's shocking that with this much height, this team rebounds so badly. They might give Henson and Tyler Zeller trouble inside; if UNC can replicate Sunday's outside shooting performance, this won't be of any concern. Zeller has also really solidified his game of late, so the trio of big men still might not be enough to keep him down.
Wake, like most bad teams, can't really impose their will on the tempo of a ahem, but given the choice they lean towards running the ball, unlike Bzdelik's Air Force teams. This, of course, plays nicely into UNC's hands. Wake has indeed improved, especially when it comes to turning the ball over, so this might not be as easy a game as last season's. It shouldn't be hard though, and Wake fans are left to ask themselves exactly what sort of future this team has.