Coming into this year most fans thought that Wake Forest would experience some growing pains with a plethora of new freshmen, as well as a new coach in Jeff Bzdelik. I would venture to say that almost nobody expected us to be at 6-6 headed into the Christmas break. It is even worse considering 4 of our losses came against Stetson, Winthrop, UNC-W, and most recently Presbyterian.
I figured the best way to look at the team as objectively as possible would be to throw up everything that KenPom has about us just to look at where we are compared to the rest of the country.
Click through for a Scouting Report of Wake Forest from KenPom
- The biggest thing that sticks out is the defensive problems that we have had. That is obvious to anybody that has watched any game that Wake Forest has been involved in. We are ranked 242nd out of 345 teams in the NCAA in defensive efficiency at 104.0. That means for every possession that an opponent has, they average 1.04 ppp against us. It is very difficult to win games when you are allowing opponents to score at this rate. The thing that is the most baffling about this is our effective height. We are 8th in the country in effective height, which has been shown by Ken Pomeroy to be a great indication of how good a team will do on defense, and 7th in average height at 78.3". This indicates a severe lack of effort and focus all around, as seen on the court, and also maybe a fundamental misunderstanding on the players behalf of what it takes to play defense well on a collegiate level.
- The offense is better than the defense (thankfully), but it is also nothing to write home about. The offensive efficiency is at 102.0, which is good for 139th in the country. This rating is ahead of the NCAA average, but I would say that this is a relatively misleading way to judge an offense, and ours in particular. Wake Forest lacks fluidity and spacing in the offense that I expected to see with Coach Bzdelik coming in. I think that this is a combination of many factors (lack of a point guard, lack of a big man, lack of transitioning what is learned in practice to games, and perhaps an inability for Coach Bzdelik to connect to the the players in an effective manner), but this is going to have to improve if we wish to win any more games with our defense as bad as it is.
- Now on to the 4 Factors, which are really the only four things that matter in a basketball game. It has been talked about ad nausem on the message boards, inside the Joel, and among any Wake Forest fan, but our biggest problems outside of defense are turnovers and rebounds. This is well represented in the stats above.
- When it comes to turnovers this year, most of us are lamenting the fact that we do not protect the ball. This is certainly true (we turn the ball over on 23.2% of our possessions) due to the lack of a primary ball-handler, and lack of fluidity within the offensive sets, but an even bigger problem is the fact that opponents only turn the ball over on 16.2% of their possessions. This is due to the lack of an attacking mentality on the defensive end, as well as questionable effort and a scheme that turns the ball over.
"From a defensive standpoint, we’re going to be aggressive in our approach. At times we’ll change defenses every now and then to keep teams from getting into a rhythm. We want to manufacture some offense off our defense by getting out and getting some deflections and some steals. We want to run. We want to push it hard and be in an attack mode at all times."- Coach Jeff Bzdelik
- This has been one of the biggest problems that nobody is talking about. If Coach Bzdelik was counting on getting a lot of offense from defense, that certainly is not happening, and could potentially be the biggest problem so far this year. If we defend in the ACC like we have so far against the mid-majors, there is a very little chance that we will win a game this year shooting below 75%.
- Now let's turn our focus to rebounding. We rank 296th in the NCAA in offensive rebounding percentage at 28.2%. This is absolutely mind-boggling considering that we are as tall as we are. Now this is also a bit misleading because we all know the deal with Ty Walker, as well as the rawness of Carson Desrosiers inside. Our team is at its best when we go a bit smaller and rely on Travis McKie, Melvin Tabb, and Ari Stewart to grab all the rebounds possible. Let's look again at a quote from Coach Bzdelik before the year.
Bzdelik on the team’s post players: "Our concern is defensive rebounding. We’re not going to be an overly big team or a physical team up front. We need to acquire that mentality, even though we might not have it physically, we need to acquire the mentality to be physical and gang rebound."
- It is pretty clear up to this point that we have struggled immensely on both sides of the rebounding equation. We have not acquired that mentality, and hopefully with Nikita Mescheriakov bringing more intensity to the floor, as well as Melvin Tabb stepping up, we can start to get that mentality.
- To look at a more positive side, Wake Forest has done a great job of shooting the ball well from all over the court, and taking advantage of getting to the free throw line a lot. Against Presbyterian we saw what happens when we do not shoot the ball as well as we have been. As you can see below, despite winning the rebounding, turnover, and free throw rate battle, the Deacs lost the game because of their poor eFG%, which was 10% below Presbyterian. This was from very poor man to man defense, as well as almost non-existent help defense.
- After analyzing these statistics and looking back at the quotes that Coach Bzdelik stated at the beginning of the year, it is no big surprise that we have struggled as much as we have. We are extremely young (323rd in the country), and there has been a very steep learning curve with a new coach, and honestly not as much talent as many thought coming into the year.
- According to KenPom through last night's games, Wake Forest has an 8.67% chance of going winless in the ACC.
- We have a 57.05% to go winless on the road in the ACC.
- At home (including High Point and Gonzaga), there is a 1.3% chance of going winless at home the rest of the year.
- In the ACC alone, we have a 14.2% chance of going winless at home.
- Our best chance individually to win a game overall is Virginia (40%) at the Joel, on Saturday, January 29th.
- Our best chance(s) individually to win a road game are at N.C State or Georgia Tech (both 11%).
- With all the information in KenPom now, we are slated to go 9-22 (2-14) in the conference.