For the first time in more than two seasons Wake Forest picked up an ACC win on the road, defeating the Hokies of Virginia Tech 83-77 on Wednesday night.
Normally Wake fans wouldn’t be so excited about a road win against a sub-.500 team, but this win calls for celebration. This is just the second road win in four years that senior Travis McKie has been apart of, and the first road win for the sophomores- which comprise most of the team. In what is now his fourth year as head coach, Jeff Bzdelik is just 2-27 on the road in conference games.
The box score from the game Wednesday night was a thing of beauty for the Deacs as they shot 54% from the floor (30-56), 56% from 3-point range (9-16), and 70% from the free throw line, finishing 14-20. The Demon Deacons also had a very good assist-to-turnover ratio against the Hokies, finishing with 17 assists and just 9 turnovers. To top things off, the Demon Deacons made an appearance on the Sportscenter top-10 plays as Codi Miller-McIntyre drove the lane and tossed a lob to Arnaud-William Adala Moto for the two-handed alley-oop slam.
Miller-McIntyre led the way for the Demon Deacons with 20 points, 4 rebounds, and a very impressive 10 assists to only 2 turnovers. Travis McKie finally decided to play the way everyone around the ACC expects him to, pouring in 24 points on 7-10 shooting including 5-6 from beyond-the-arc and pulling down 6 rebounds. The offensive efficiency was impressive from almost everyone: Devin Thomas shot 3-6, Tyler Cavanaugh 3-4, Miller-McIntyre 8-16, Adala Moto 4-8, Andre Washington 3-4, and freshman Miles Overton went 2-2.
Does this ACC road win symbolize the light at the end of the tunnel for the Demon Deacons? One could argue. The last three seasons Wake Forest basketball has been nothing short of pitiful, miserable, laughable, and any other negative adjectives one can think of. However, although the team may not be quite up to the standard that teams in year’s past provided (see Josh Howard, Chris Paul, Ish Smith, Jeff Teague, etc.) Wake fans have to be somewhat pleased with what Jeff Bzdelik has done so far this year.
Everyone knows how much pressure Bzdelik has been under the last two seasons, seeing as a group of enraged Wake fans went so far as to pay for billboard advertisements along highway 52 calling for his firing during the ACC tournament in Greensboro last season and creating a website and bumper stickers coining the phrase “buzz out.”
I myself have been one of the biggest haters of Jeff Bzdelik’s coaching ability since he came to Wake Forest a few seasons ago. And while the teams were terrible in each of his first three seasons, we must not overlook what is happening this season. Overall the Deacs are 13-6 which already matches the most wins in a season that Bzdelik has had at Wake Forest. They are 3-3 in conference play, and many Wake fans would be quick to tell you they are more than happy to be .500 in the ACC at this point in the season. I know it is a down year for the Tarheels and the Wolfpack, but the Demon Deacons already defeated two of arguably their biggest rivals, and in-state rivals at that.
Barring drastic changes, it seems as though Wake Forest will reach postseason play for the first time in what is now its fourth-year under Bzdelik. Now before we get ahead of ourselves, Wake Forest is most likely looking at an NIT birth and doesn’t have a great shot at this point to reach the NCAA tournament, but even an NIT birth would give many Wake fans reason to celebrate (somewhat sarcastically, but celebrating nonetheless.) Reaching a postseason tournament at the end of the season could have monumental implications for the next few years.
This is a contract year for Bzdelik, and at the end of the season the athletic department will have to decide whether to extend Bzdelik’s contract or let him go. Many boosters and donors are still unhappy with the job Bzdelik has done and continue to call for his firing, and it looks as though it will be totally up in the air whether or not he gets to stick around in Winston-Salem. Give props to the Demon Deacons for picking up this road win, as it hopefully will improve the psyche of everyone around the program. Wake Forest has three straight home games on the upcoming schedule, the next being against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame on Saturday, January 25. Wake fans are beginning to question whether or not they have confidence again in their basketball program, and the win on the road against Virginia Tech could be the light at the end of the tunnel for the Demon Deacons.