Hey, Syracuse is 3-0 in ACC play! That's pretty nice, right? Even nicer: On Tuesday, the Orange have a chance to get to 4-0 if they can grab a victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Now that might be slightly more difficult without Chris McCullough... but we'll get to that later on today I'm sure.
Below, Robert Reinhard (who you should follow on Twitter) from SB Nation's Blogger So Dear, stops by to chat all about Wake Forest basketball. Join us below, and swing over there too if you'd like to see our answers.
This is a transition year for Wake, but you can already see the seeds of improvement, even if the losses continue. What's most notable for Demon Deacon fans in terms of what the new regime brings to the table?
Basketball? We're just improving in every facet of the game. Manning's offensive sets have so much more purpose to them, as opposed to previous years where we had so much wasted motion on the court. Our defensive intensity is much better. Our recruiting efforts/success are much better, and I believe our mindset is much better. Jeff Bzdelik won five, count them, five road games in his four years. Manning already has two. Our guys now believe they can and should win every game they play in, which is such a monumental change for the past four years.
Wake Forest's done a nice job on the boards so far this season; how do you see that matching up with Syracuse's own strength in terms of pulling down rebounds?
It's going to be a matchup of strength vs. strength. I think Wake will have an advantage on their basket given our relatively high offensive rebounding % and the difficulties that rebounding out of a zone presents. On the other end, I have to give Wake a slight advantage there as well. Syracuse is 31st nationally in offensive rebounding %, but Wake is 2nd nationally in defensive rebounding %. Georgia Tech is a top-10 rebounding team and Wake just outrebounded them by 11. Also, if McCullough is out, that will only help Wake.
Can Wake Forest score on the Syracuse 2-3 zone? Obviously this team's not as adept as previous SU squads, but still very good.
I think Wake matches up reasonably well against zone defenses. We have a number of stretch fours in Konstantinos Mitoglou and Darius Leonard who can hit threes and are also solid passers. They'll be able to operate out of the high post or beyond the arc. Devin Thomas will command a post presence and is also a strong passer who can also kick out to our guards or cutters. We'll need Mitchell Wilbekin and Cornelius Hudson to knock down some perimeter shots as well. Another reason we match up well against the zone is that Wake constantly looks to push the ball off makes and misses. One key to beating the zone is just being able to avoid it with fast break opportunities. Look for Codi Miller-McIntyre to push the ball a number of times and try to finish around the basket.
Who makes Wake Forest tick? Worded differently: If there's one Deacons player SU needs to key in on, who would you recommend?
Normally I would say Devin Thomas, who has been sensational over his past three games. But going against the Cuse zone the player I'll cite is freshman guard Mitchell Wilbekin. Wilbekin is 26-58 (45%) from beyond the arc this season and his shooting will be critical to Wake's success in this game.
What do expectations look like for Wake this year? What about next year?
Expectations for the rest of this season are to beat the teams we are supposed to beat at home (lower-third ACC teams), try and steal a few on the road (BC, Clemson, FSU), and then hopefully beat Carolina at home on January 21st. We were close against Duke and Louisville, but Wake fans would love to beat Carolina and allow Manning to get a signature win in year one. Moving forward, I think we have a very realistic chance to make the NCAA Tournament next season. We'll lose only one rotation player, and we will add three four-star recruits. I know that's Manning's expectation, and it will be very exciting for the fan base if Wake can return to the postseason for the first time since 2010.
Prediction for Tuesday's game?
I think that Wake Forest will play pretty well and be close late in the game, but I'll take the Orange to win 65-60.