Now that everything has settled down a bit, we have the coaching staff set and we learned the news that all five 2010 players will stay committed to Wake Forest, the BSD staff thought it would be a good idea to get together to talk about what we can expect out of the Demon Deacons and their new head coach Jeff Bzdelik next season.
You'll find part one after the jump...
RJohnston: How do you feel about the hiring of Jeff Bzdelik after having awhile to digest it?
Reinhard: Well, the jury will still be out on Bzdelik until we get to the postseason. I like his NBA background, but I'm not terribly impressed with his college background. I was very impressed that he was able to keep the recruits. His reputation for not being a great recruiter is relatively inaccurate because he was able to recruit a very good player in Alec Burks to Colorado.
Our offense should be better with Bzdelik, but I do not believe that our defense will be as good. I am glad that he maintained the coaching staff--which will provide our team with continuity. Next year's team will benefit because the ACC should be down.
BJohnston: Bzdelik has a good track record and is by all accounts a great guy and a fantastic X's and O's coach. The major problem with him is the lack of experience with big time recruiting (having coached at Colorado and Air Force previously) and his stint at each university. After being hired at Air Force, he interviewed or spoke to other NBA or college teams every single offseason. This can be viewed as someone who is simply looking to upgrade their job, or it can be viewed as someone who is not content being in one place. His daughter is a freshman at Wake this year, he has a beach house on the North Carolina coast, and I could very well see a situation where Wake Forest has a different coach in 5 years.
Rickman: I'm still a bit unsettled about how everything played out and I am concerned about his recent inability to stay in one place, but after the first few moves in the wake of the hiring, I'm more optimistic to say the least. The Mark Pope hiring was a nice step and retaining Jeff Battle and Rusty LaRue was great for stability. I keep hearing about Bzdelik as an Xs and Os coach, but we will see that when the time comes.
The banner achievement thus far (and this can be thought of as a real victory, to be honest) is in keeping all five recruits. That says a lot about the coaching staff, but even more about the quality of the five young men that are coming into the program. There was a reason these kids were recruited to Wake Forest, and when you talk about a "fit," look no further than Travis McKie, Carson Desrosiers, Melvin Tabb, Tony Chennault and JT Terrell.
RJohnston: I agree with all of the what the guys have already said, but I am a bit more optimistic than they are I think. Although we did not know it at the time, Ron Wellman essentially traded Dino Gaudio for Jeff Bzdelik. I don't think anybody can argue that this is anything but an upgrade in terms of X's and Os, particularly on offense, but the verdict is still out on whether or not he can recruit. I expect the "Fab Five" to do things next year that nearly nobody is predicting. I think we will definitely make the NCAA Tournament if there are 96 teams and will make a strong push if the field remains at 64.
Rickman: On the subject of the recruits, let's just talk a little bit about the five in general. I know we've all had the opportunity to watch a few of these guys and talk to them, so what is your overall impression of the 2010 guys? How do you think they'll fit into Coach Bzdelik's system?
RJohnston: I think this class has the potential to be one of the best classes in Wake Forest history. We have had our fair share of great recruits in the past (Johnson, Teague, AFA to name a few), but these guys, with the coaching of Bzdelik, have the potential to take us to a level that we have not been to before. Individually, I think that J.T. Terrell could go down as an all-time great as a Deac and is extremely underrated. Desrosiers will fit right into Bzdelik's scheme and will be exactly what we need in a high post passer who is a threat inside as well.
Reinhard: My overall impression of the 2010 class is that we have some of everything, which is great, because we lost some of everything. The thing I see in each of our players is that they are not just athletes; they are basketball players. They are versatile. Versatile players will fit in very well in Bzdelik's system. His system requires that his players be able to shoot, pass, and dribble.
These 5, in addition to the players already on campus, can do just that. We have a lot of threats, and defenses will not be able to focus their attention on just one player. Carson was born to be in this system. He can play down low, and he can also step out to 17 or 18 feet and make jumpers. His passing ability out of the high post will also be very critical to our offense. We will be able to set screens and run back door cuts which will allow us to get a lot of easy bucks.
I love J.T. Terrell. He is a gamer. Plain and simple. I love his enthusiasm, and i love how competitive he is. Chennault is a winner, and a very underrated prospect. Tabb can come in and provide some toughness and tenacity down low. I'm very optimistic about this class both this year and moving forward in the Bzdelik system.
BJohnston: I'm very excited about the upcoming class as well. We have a player at every position and each one seems to have not only a keen sense of how to move the ball on offense, but a willingness to learn/develop themselves on the defensive end. While it is uncertain what type of gameplans Bzdelik will run with a different personnel than he is used to, I have no doubt that these kids will be able to adapt and willing to put in the work necessary to make Wake extremely competitive.
I enjoyed watching our previous players play but like Rob said, they were athletes moreso than they were basketball players (with exceptions). I am very excited to see these young men hit the court in the old gold and black.
RJohnston: Let's get some very early predictions for next year. Bart what do you think?
BJohnston: I think we get off to a slow start as we attempt to reconcile a new playing style with a very young team. If preliminary reports of Wake taking part in the Preseason NIT are correct, we will have a couple of very tough games at the beginning of the season. The ACC looks to be down this year with two very solid teams, and probably the consensus best team in the nation in Duke, so Wake will have opportunities to finish in the top half of the conference.
We will lose games we should not lose and win a couple that we should not win. I think 6-10 or 7-9 is a good guess this far out as to how we will perform next season in the conference. I would love to see us make the NCAA's, but barring expansion I just do not see it next year.
Rickman: I think the tough games at the start of the season would be great for this club. The only way for a young team to get older is by playing, and as is the Tom Izzo model, the best way to do that is to give them a trial by fire. I think that the freshmen will have their freshmen moments for sure, but they will be a poised bunch. Plus, the big game experience that Ari and C.J. had last season will be huge. Those two have the makings to be great leaders and I'm interested to see how they will take on that role.
RJohnston: I think we will win around 18-20 games and will be on the bubble for the tournament. There will be some early struggles, but I don't think 8-8, or even 9-7 is completely out of the question if Bzdelik can develop the guys like he wants to. We have A LOT of talent out on the floor next year, and it will be interesting to see who winds up contributing and at what areas they excel at. I will be disappointed if we are not on the bubble going into Selection Sunday next year. I also expect a win or two in the ACC Tournament to show that Bzdelik can win when it matters.
Reinhard: Wow, good question. Mine is certainly subject to change, but I imagine we will have a season next year that is similar to Carolina's this past season. We may end up with 15 or 16 wins, but that would be about it. There would be no shame in that. We will have a lot of youth on the floor next season. We will have a 9 or 10 man rotation next year, and only 1 of those will be a senior. Only 2 of those will be juniors. We have a very talented freshman class, but there will still be a learning curve. I believe we will see them get much better as the season goes along, and that should be fun to watch.
There are going to be times when this team looks very good, and there will be times where we will be shaking our heads. This is what happens to freshman in college basketball. We even saw this with players like John Wall this season. One game he nearly gets a triple double, the next game he might have 7 TO's. If our players buy into the team concept, which I believe they will, then we can win a few games next year that we shouldn't. With a down ACC, I predict we will finish 9th in the ACC. Possible NIT invite, but I doubt it.
Rickman: Not to be a Debbie Downer Riley, but I think 9-7 or 8-8 is a bit of an unrealistic expectation. The ACC in general will be in flux next year, but you are asking a team with a new coach that is really only returning one starter to get to .500 in one of the toughest conferences in America?
RJohnston: I am certainly being optimistic Martin, but we will have more talent on the floor next year than we did last year. We have a better coach, which is the general consensus, and I certainly believe Bzdelik is better than Gaudio in-game. I do not think it is a stretch my any means to think that we could replicate last years results. It will be vital that somebody steps up and becomes a leader to show the freshmen the way. Why do you guys think that we will be worse next year when the talent level and coaching ability is better?
Rickman: It's a different team. We overachieved if anything last year, and you're replacing your four-year starting point guard with a freshman. You have big questions at the post positions. And you're losing a lottery forward. I'm as high on this class as the rest of you guys, I just think that 9-7 is a pretty lofty goal.
BJohnston: Kentucky had the most talent of any team last year (in my opinion) and they lost in the elite 8 to a more disciplined, experienced West Virginia team. Inexperienced teams generally do not fare very well, particuarly when you're going up against teams with the talent that other ACC teams have night in and night out.
I'm not as sold on the fact that we're "upgrading" the coach position either. Certainly Bzdelik has more of an established offensive identity, but Dino tried to play to our strengths last year in defensive ability and that led us to a 20 win season and an NCAA tournament win.
RJohnston: It is certainly a different team and I am probably underestimating experience, but when you go down the starters of last year and the projected starters of this year, there is more talent on this team by far. I think 8-8 should be the goal in the ACC and the guys can go from there.
Reinhard: 9-7 is quite lofty. I'd say 7-9 or 8-8 is the ceiling. We lost a lottery pick in Al-Farouq Aminu. He made such a difference on our team. He won us 6 or 7 games by himself last year. His defense was incredible as was his rebounding. He made average defensive players look pretty good.
Rickman: I just honestly think Al-Farouq Aminu was one of the most underrated Wake players in recent memory. He was a garbage man no doubt, but his contributions on both ends of the floor completely masked some of Wake's bigger problems. He never was a superior 1-on-1 player, but he also was targeted by defenses, which freed up a lot of space and took the defensive pressure off the rest of the team. Plus he was arguably the best rebounder in the ACC.
I'm not saying that next year's team will have a lack of talent; I'm just calling it like I see it. This is an extremely young basketball team that will get its bumps and bruises in a tough ACC schedule, especially on the road, where it is extremely difficult to win. I am with Rob Diesel when I say 8-8 would be the absolute ceiling.
BJohnston: Aminu was the best offensive rebounder in the nation last year. Aminu with Wake Forest was just like Wayne Ellington was with UNC: undervalued and underrated by their own fans much to the dismay of all other fanbases.
RJohnston: I think AFA was underrated too, and he covered up a lot of deficiencies, but he singlehandedly cannot make up for the lack of talent at other positions last year. We have spread out talent this year and depth at each position. That is why I think we can be better than last year.
Rickman: David Koresh wants to know how you make your Kool-Aid. It's a fresh start regardless for this team and I think that turning the page in the long run will be good for everyone, but you've gotta be crazy or an eternal optimist to realistically expect this Wake team to finish better than the field of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
Check back tomorrow for the second part of our postseason chat.