With the start of the 2013-2014 regular season right around the corner, the Wake Forest basketball team looks to resurrect the program that was formerly regarded as one of the more dominant schools in the country. As recently as 2009, the Demon Deacons were ranked number one overall and were the only undefeated division one team in the country, but the team has had very little success since that time.
Wake Forest opens the 2013-’14 regular season Friday, November 8 at home against Colgate. The non-conference schedule is headlined by their matchup against the Kansas Jayhawks, who have the most highly-touted recruit in recent years, Andrew Wiggins, on November 28 in the Paradise Jam. Other notable non-conferences battles include potential games against USC, Villanova, Iowa, Tennessee, UTEP, and Xavier, which are also in the Paradise Jam. Wake’s conference opener is January 5 at home against the Tar Heels of North Carolina.
The team is coached by Jeff Bzdelik who enters fourth season at the helm. Bzdelik’s overall record in his first three years at Wake Forest stands at an unimpressive 34-60, but he is not solely to blame for the Demon Deacons’ lack of success. The somewhat surprising firing of former coach Dino Gaudio after the 2010 season began a new era for the Demon Deacons. The team’s roster was complete with excellent basketball players that were top recruits coming out of high school when Bzdelik took over in 2010, but many of these players had character issues that didn’t meet the standards of Bzdelik or the Wake Forest program. Bzdelik had to kick multiple players off the team for off-the-court issues and had a handful of other players transfer. As of last season there were seven former Wake Forest players that were playing for other top programs around the country.
Although many fans and alumni around the program were calling for the firing of Bzdelik after last season, the program decided to give him another shot, which could definitely pay off in the next few years. This is without question the first year that Bzdelik will be able to call this team his own: no more legal troubles (hopefully), his own recruits, and his own team. Bzdelik has brought in recruits that seem to be high character guys with a lot of talent, and he is hoping that his team can improve from a 13-18 overall record a season ago.
The Demon Deacons are led by senior forward Travis McKie, who has become a household name across the ACC. McKie was the team’s second-leading scorer as a junior last season at 13.5 points per game while also pulling in 7 rebounds per game, and is expected to handle much of the scoring load this season. The Deacons lost their leading scorer from last season, C.J. Harris, due to graduation and lost 3-point specialist Chase Fischer due to transfer, but return everyone else from last year’s team.
The Deacs were young last season, and although the majority of their minutes will come from sophomores, they are a much more experienced team due to the workload that was expected from the freshman class last season. Point Guard Codi Miller-McIntyre started 29 games last season as a freshman, and is expected to step up as a leader this season. Forward Devin Thomas started all 31 games as a freshman last year and was one of the top rebounders in the conference at 7.5 per contest. As a team, the Demon Deacons are returning 70 percent of their scoring load from last season and 90 percent of their rebounding, and hope that their underclassmen can benefit from last year’s experience.
Overall Wake Forest is projected to finish 13 out of 15 in conference play this season. Fans and media alike may not have high hopes for the Demon Deacons, but the players hope to shock many of us around Tobacco Road. With a team full of freshman last season the Deacs’ were able to hand the Hurricanes of Miami their first conference loss of the season and knocked off nationally ranked NC State Wolfpack both in Winston-Salem, so the returning players this season know what they are capable of.
Last year’s squad was 0-9 on the road in the ACC, and this year’s team knows full well that they must improve that mark in order to have success in a much tougher league with the additions of Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh. Hopefully the Demon Deacons can turn things around and get back to the days of nationally ranked dominance that they displayed during the days of Chris Paul and even into the 2009 season and save coach Jeff Bzdelik’s job.