Feb 4, 2012; Raleigh, NC, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons head coach Jeff Bzdelik talks with forward Daniel Green (4) during the first half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at the RBC Center. Mandatory Credit: Liz Condo-US PRESSWIRE

Wake Forest Demon Deacons Basketball Season Preview

The college hoops season is right around the corner, and Busting Brackets is here to whet your basketball-starved appetite. Over the next five weeks, we are publishing season previews team by team, conference by conference, to offer a glimpse into the upcoming season. Busting Brackets is giving you the lowdown on the biggest storylines, offseason changes and x-factors for each team and each league as we roll into the 2012-13 season. Our complete season preview archive can be accessed here. Buckle up, peeps.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Last Season 13-18 (4-12 ACC)
Lost to Maryland in opening round of ACC tournament
Key Returning Players: C.J. Harris, G
Travis McKie, F
Chase Fischer, G
Daniel Green, F
Key Additions: Codi Miller-McIntyre, G (First Assembly Christian School)
Arnaud Moto, F (Episcopal HS)
Aaron Rountree, F (Greenfield School)
Devin Thomas, F (Central Dauphin HS)
Tyler Cavanaugh, F (Jamesville-DeWitt HS)
Andrew Washington, C (Roanoke Catholic School)
Madison Jones, G (Ravenscroft School)
Key Losses: Tony Chennault, G (Transferred to Villanova)
Nikita Mescheriakov, F
Ty Walker, C
Carson Desrosiers, F/C (Transferred to Providence)
Anthony Fields, G (Transferred to Bradley)
Top Non-Conference Games: Nov. 16 vs. UConn (U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam)
Nov. 17/18 vs. Iona or Quinnipiac (Paradise Jam)
Nov. 19 vs. TBD (Paradise Jam)
Nov. 27 vs. Nebraska
Dec. 1 @ Richmond
Dec. 8 vs. Seton Hall
Jan. 2 vs. Xavier
Top Conference Games: Jan. 5 @ Duke
Jan. 22 vs. NC State
Jan. 30 vs. Duke
Feb. 5 @ North Carolina
Feb. 9 vs. Florida State
Feb. 23 vs. Miami (FL)
Feb. 26 @ Florida State
Mar. 6 @ NC State
Breakout Player: Codi Miller-McIntyre. C.J. Harris broke out as a junior last season. Travis McKie broke out the moment he arrived in Winston-Salem two years ago. And freshman guard Codi Miller-McIntyre will have to do the same (follow McKie’s trajectory) if the Demon Deacons are to stay afloat in a jammed ACC this season. Miller-McIntyre, the most heralded player in Jeff Bzdelik’s seven-man recruiting class, is a tough-minded, floor general with natural point guard instincts. He’ll slot right into the starting lineup at the 1, replacing former Deacons starter Tony Chennault (transferred to Villanova). With Harris—a combo guard at heart capable of running the offense—to his side, Miller-McIntyre shouldn’t be overwhelmed by starting from day one. Though the freshman will be charged with facilitating the offense as the nominal point guard, Harris and McKie will still lead the team and shoulder the scoring load. Beyond the Harris-McKie Batman and Robin tandem, Wake Forest is littered with question marks. As such, opposing defenses will scheme to take Harris and McKie out of the offense and dare other role players to step up. I certainly wouldn’t bank on any one player in particular capitalizing on the opportunity, but given his sheer talent, competitiveness and maturity at the point guard position, Miller-McIntyre is the best bet. How quickly he develops will determine whether Wake is a two-man team or a three-man team in 2012-13.
X-Factor: Jeff Bzdelik. Eleven ACC coaches should feel fairly comfortable concerning their job security beyond this season. Jeff Bzdelik is the lone omission who should be sweating it out. After taking over a program coming off a 20-win season and NCAA tournament appearance in 2010—bear in mind, his first team had lost most of the talent from that 20-win squad—Bzdelik led a young Deacons squad to a dismal 8 and 24 finish, including just one win in conference. Safe to say his Winston-Salem debut didn’t go smoothly. Unfortunately for him, his follow-up act wasn’t much better. Last year’s team won just 13 games overall despite a light non-conference schedule, floundering in conference play for the second straight season. Under Bzdelik, Wake has lost four players to transfers—three from last year’s squad—over the last two years. Since Bzdelik left Air Force in 2007 following  two highly successful seasons with the Falcons (including an NCAA tournament appearance in his debut season), the 59-year-old head coach has stumbled in his two biggest head coaching jobs to date. He was largely unsuccessful in his three-year stint at Colorado and has been no better during his brief stay so far in Winston-Salem. If Bzdelik doesn’t get the ship righted this season—and who can really blame if he doesn’t given the shortage of experienced talent on the roster beyond Harris and McKie?—this could be his second three-and-out at a high-major school. With a deep freshman class in tow this year and another strong recruiting class on the way in 2013, Wake Forest is built more for two or three years down the line than it is for the present. But Wake Forest may not be willing to wait. The Deacons were quick with the trigger on Dino Gaudio despite consecutive 20-win seasons and NCAA tournament appearances to close out his tenure. And barring a turnaround at Wake this season, Bzdelik could very well experience the same fate. Regardless of the outcome of this season, Bzdelik should be given one more year to show what he can do with this year’s freshmen as more experienced sophomores. Whether Ron Wellman agrees is to be determined.
Best Case: Bzdelik is given a vote of confidence regarding his job security for next season. Harris and McKie comprise one of the top one-two punches in the conference, as both players nab second-team All-ACC honors. Miller-McIntyre is an immediate contributor and tops North Carolina’s Marcus Paige as the best freshman point guard in the league. Fellow freshmen Arnaud Moto, Aaron Rountree, Devin Thomas and Tyler Cavanaugh offer desperately needed depth to the least experienced frontcourt in the league. Wake Forest uses a revolving door approach to its frontcourt, constantly rotating in the freshmen so that no one guy gets exposed over prolonged stretches. The Deacons, which essentially lack a true center on the entire roster unless freshman Andrew Washington is able to contribute right away (unlikely, he’s a project), make hay by going to a smaller lineup. Bzdelik use the abundance of versatile and athletic forwards on his roster and creates mismatches for opposing teams. Rebounding is a major problem. As is interior defense. But Wake makes up for their lack of interior strength by creating mismatches on the offensive end. After a strong showing in the non-conference, the Deacons win six games in conference and finish the season a game over .500. Bzdelik has something to build off of next year, with more talented recruits ticketed for Winston-Salem in 2013.
Worst Case: Harris and McKie are great, but the quality of the rest of the roster is a stark drop-off. Wake Forest is truly a two-man team—like Virginia Tech, one of the two thinnest in the league. Miller-McIntyre flashes potential, but is unable to contribute at a high level. The freshman struggles adjusting to the accelerated speed of the college game, and his sloppy play forces Harris to run point, where he’s less effective. The Deacons have no frontcourt presence to speak of, and the lack of any college-ready big men makes Bzdelik’s bunch susceptible to the talented 4’s and 5’s across the league. Wake was bad defensively last year, and without shot-blocking wizard Ty Walker—the lone interior, defensive presence on last year’s team—as the last line of defense, the team is even worse on the defensive end this year. The Deacons are brutally bad rebounding the basketball once again (they had the second worst rebounding margin in the ACC last season). The two-man show in Winston-Salem is not enough to keep Wake out of the cellar. The Deacons jockey with Virginia Tech to avoid last place, but the Hokies’ edge in frontcourt depth gives VPI the edge. With nary a quality win, Wake Forest duplicates Bzdelik’s first season in Winston-Salem with a single-digit-win season. Bzdelik is fired at season’s end, which some Deacons fans would consider a “best case scenario.”
Projected Finish: Regular Season: 13-18 (5-13 ACC), 10th place ACC
Lose in first round of ACC tournament

Tags: Basketball Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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