It has been an interesting few weeks for Demon Deacon fans. There have been so many ups and downs with the basketball program that most fans probably feel like pregnant women having mood swings.
Right as the season was getting underway and the first few games took place, rumors began circulating on Twitter and the message boards that one of Wake’s 2014 recruits, 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas, wanted release from his verbal commitment to Wake Forest and sign elsewhere. After about a week of uncertainty regarding Haas’ situation, bloggers were fairly certain that Haas was going to verbally commit to UAB, when he finally made it public that he no longer wished to enroll at Wake Forest next year and ultimately committed to play at Purdue.
The de-commitment from Haas was major disappointment for Wake fans, and understandably so. Haas is ranked in the top 100 high school seniors in the country, and standing at 7-foot-2, is also one of the tallest. Not to mention, Wake Forest also signed a point guard in the top 100, Shelton Mitchell from Waxhaw, North Carolina, and the two seemed as though they would be perfect compliments for each other during the next four seasons.
The Haas situation simply adds to the uncertainty of the future of Wake Forest basketball. Everyone in the triangle, and ACC country for that matter, is aware of the low level of job security for current head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Some people around Winston-Salem feel that unless a fair amount of improvement is made this season that Bzdelik may be gone after the season concludes.
The Bzdelik situation is interesting in regards to Haas in that no one had a clue why the high school senior was so passionate about his future at Wake Forest one week and then decided to go to Purdue the next, but many speculated that the reason was because someone informed Haas that Bzdelik may not be around next season and that there may be coaching changes. To this point Haas still has not been clear as to the reason for his change of heart, and we may never know.
Without looking ahead to what may or may not happen next season, it seems difficult to set expectations for this year’s team. The Demon Deacons’ current mark is 6-2, a better record than many, including myself, expected them to have thus far. The Deacs have defeated their mid-major opponents fairly handily early on, something that they had trouble with in year’s past.
Although ACC teams play what are often referred to as “cupcake teams” in the early part of the season, Wake has wins of 21, 27, 21, 7, 28, and 14 points respectively, which will definitely suffice after the early performances the last three seasons.
As surprised and skeptical as I may be to say this, I think the Demon Deacons might actually be decent this year. The Deacs suffered a perplexing 19-point loss to the Tennessee Volunteers last Saturday, but their only other loss so far was by 9 points to the then-number one ranked Kansas Jayhawks, in a game where Wake hung tough throughout. The Demon Deacons cut the lead to just four points in the latter part of the second half, but a questionable ejection of Devin Thomas, and ultimately better talent helped the Jayhawks avoid the upset.
Sophomore point guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, whom Jay Bilas had high remarks for coming in last year as a freshman, has really stepped up as the leader of this Wake Forest squad from a scoring standpoint, and the Demon Deacons will look to him to continue to carry the scoring load. Miller-McIntyre set his career high in points against Kansas with 26, and has been noticeably more assertive on the offensive end this season compared to last. Forward Devin Thomas continues to rebound at a high level and look for him to be one of the leading rebounders in the ACC this season. Senior Travis McKie has had a relatively quiet start to the season, but everyone around the ACC knows what he is capable of after the numbers he put up last season.
All the talk up and down Tobacco Road so far this season has been about the North Carolina Tar Heels’ absence of star guards P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, but keep in mind that Wake Forest has been without their highest rated freshman recruit in Greg McClinton.
McClinton, a Winston-Salem native and former Winston-Salem Prep star, is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who chose Wake over schools like Cincinnati, Uconn, Miami, Missouri, and others. The Demon Deacons are looking for another outside shooter to join the likes of Coron Williams, the Robert Morris transfer, and once McClinton returns the Deacs hope to be vastly improved from the perimeter.
To say that the Demon Deacons will be ‘good’ this year is something that one simply cannot do, because after the last three seasons, ‘good’ for Wake Forest has become somewhat arbitrary. However, I think that the Demon Deacons will almost certainly improve from a 13-18 overall record last season, and I believe they will reach some form of postseason play for the first time under Jeff Bzdelik.
Wake’s next game is Wednesday, December 4th at home against the Tulane Green Wave. I expect the Demon Deacons to win this game and a number of other games in the upcoming weeks, and maybe Wake fans can finally get back to the good ole’ days when wins weren’t questionable, but rather expected.
Read more Wake Forest rumors, news and opinion on our Wake Forest basketball page