FanPost

In Offense of Jeff Bzdelik

Bemused by the naiveté of a post actually affirming this season of Wake hoops even looking towards the future, I feel compelled to assess Wake's basketball's historic failure under Jeff Bdzelik by examining the team's larger body of work rather than cherrypicking arbitrarily curiously selected stats. using small sample sizes & often mutating categories & benchmarks. I don't say this to be rude, but if you reduce the two line paragraphs, and assess the numbers isolated by the previous commenter, we're essentially reducing Bdzelik's dumpster fire of a season to the shooting percentages during the Duke game at home, point-in-the-paint numbers against Georgia Tech, points in the paint, off turnovers, & off fast breaks against Maryland & Virginia Tech, strange tangents drawn between the numbers of our opponents playing each other, and chalking up what's left to questionable officiating. This ignores completely both crushing losses against the likes of Stetson, Wilmington, Presbyterian, Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth, and Winthrop - and a squeak of a win against UNC-Greensboro - and Wake's aggregate margin of victory loss against our ACC brethren. So I don't know about you, but I think only wildly unscientific conclusions follow sample sizes that arbitrarily selected, small, and ever morphing.

This season has been abysmal in historic proportions, and I think given our patience and the hard work of predecessors like Skip Prosser & Dino Gaudio during the upward trajectory of the Wake Forest basketball program, and the sufficient window of opportunity Coach Buzzkill's had adapt & improve over the course of 2/3 of a season, mostly against the very lowest of the low mid-majors, and the weakest the ACC has to offer, Jeff Bdzelik's standard of competitiveness is not remotely on par with Wake Forest's standard of excellence. Wake Forest fans/alums deserve better, and we should demand more.

Starting over/successfully rebuilding one season too late, with a coach worthy of Wake Forest, is infinitely preferable to eking out several seasons on the margins – in the middle of the pack at best, or as historically abominable ACC doormats – and tarring the legacies of Prosser & Gaudio, & all of their hard-work that elevated our program’s attractiveness to young studs, under a coach who will give us, at best, a marginal product on par with a rebuilt Air Force or Colorado in an ACC context, and at worst a historically bad one.

In order to objectively assess the state of the team as it has imploded run its course over the course of the season, especially in the context of a season where we have regularly found ourselves out of genuine contention early & faced second-teams (especially against our ACC opponents, where we are now losing by 26 points per game on average), many of our numbers are undisciplined and pockmarked by peaks & troughs more due to the fact that we are so bad at this point, we're generally playing against more relaxed defenses more often than our ACC counterparts simply because the leads are that insurmountable, and we are just that bad. Thus, as we lose our in-conference games with a whimper by a margin approaching 30 points, our ACC opponents simply aren't having to compete as strongly or consistently for a statistically relevant large portion (minutes) of these games.

So, here is, what I think, is a substantially more systematic, scientific, & accurate way of judging the merits of this season, & whether we genuinely are improving: Simply look at our margins of loss to assess whether Jeff Bdzelik has situationally adapted competently - e.g., whether the offense has statistically gotten any better over the course of these first 20 (of 31) games, and whether the defense is keeping opponents more honest & tangibly improving.

The core issue at stake is, where do we draw the line between rebuilding, & being artlessly flogged but are trying to mask the distinction between genuine rebuilding & simply being flattened by saying that any kind of losing still qualifies as rebuilding unconditionally.

Here's what rebuilding means to me:

1) Winning Against Low Mid-Major Teams: These are teams that our youngsters cut their teeth with at worst a hiccup, but certainly not programs that we consistently have to recover from.
State of the Program: We're not talking George Mason, we're talking losses to Stetson, Wilmington, Presbyterian, Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth, and Winthrop by an average margin of loss of over 12 points.

2) Followed by Credible Losses Against In-Conference Programs: E.g., the score is honest enough that young players aren't having to ask "What's the purpose of any of this?", like they're on record wondering aloud this season.
State of the Program: We're losing to the weakest in the ACC (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, & NC State) by an average margin of loss of over 24 points. Factor in the game against Duke at home, & we're losing by over 26 points.

3) Punctuated By Getting Better Gradually: This has to checker the season in the right direction (up), and is signified at least by improvements in the areas the hired coach purports to be strongest at (point-generating ball movement and defense).
State of the Program: The offense looks terrible, and after extensive time to adapt during the course of playing our weakest opponents, it actually got *worse* after losing to Stetson and Virginia Commonwealth:
3a) In our first 7 games we averaged 72 points.
3b) In the following 7 games, we averaged 69 points.
3c) Regarding defense - an ostensible 'strength' for Coach Buzzkill - after an opportunity window of 15 games against the lowest of the low mid-majors to take inventory of injuries, adjust accordingly, and credibly improve, our defense has shown no improvement to speak of, and actually looks worse. In fact, our average margin of loss against the weakest ACC programs except for Duke, has *more than doubled* (12 point per/game average margin of loss against low mid-majors, 26 point per/game average margin of loss against Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State, Duke, and Virginia Tech). It's understandable to lose by wider margins against ACC than low mid-major programs, but the margin of loss should never more than double, especially in a world where the coach is purportedly, relatively improving the on-court product.


20 games into the season, with only 11 left, we're long past the point of "it's too soon to tell." What's more, the fact that the coach has the gall to act diffidently bemused towards a fan base/alums he has alienated by coldly distancing himself from both us and his woefully inadequate on-court product when we fans/alums are furious with what he's doing to a program that we stood by patiently while Prosser and Gaudio in good faith spent so much sweat over the course of so many precious years improving to the level our basketball program ought to be (tangibly ascending towards Maryland/Duke/UNC, rather than crashing through the floor, losing on a historic level), simply makes it even less credible to chalk this one up to rebuilding à la "eh, there's no way to draw distinctions in kinds of losing/losses over the course of 2/3 of a season. <Throw hands up>, all losing is rebuilding."

Most agree that Bzdelik was a whiff of a hire, and half agree that he modestly turned things around at Air Force & Colorado, but given the way we were rebuilding, with all of the attractiveness that this program has increasingly had to stud recruits due to both our sexy system of play to those who wanted the best opportunity at maximizing their chance at going pro (either NBA or Europe) and our near-elite reputation for at least dominating during the regular season (instead of at best playing a plodding offense, a polite defense, and doing as well as a turned-around Air Force or Colorado - e.g., dwelling on the margins at best in the middle of the pack in the ACC, and at-worst setting records for scale of atrociousness), is Bzdelik's most competitive standard remotely on par with Wake’s standard of excellence?

I don't think so at all. First, all we needed was a revolution in in-game coaching, not a revolution in our overall system or approach. Now, all we have is even worse in-game coaching, & a lesser 'system' that's tearing the program to pieces, and threatening to vaporize all that we had & all the positives that Prosser & Gaudio left the next heir to the program in terms of what we could offer stud recruits (which all universally agreed was Bzdelik's weakest attribute even before his reign began). Second, if what we have to look forward to relative to seasons under Dino Gaudio is waiting unreasonably long for Coach Buzzkill to learn how to adjust to who he's playing, & even then, only making us as good as a Wake program with lesser talent than during the Prosser/Gaudio period using a subpar offensive/defensive system to be about as good as an Air Force or a Colorado in the ACC, what we're 'looking forward to' is taking a gargantuan step backwards from what we had before. Third, even if we project the most naively blossoming future, it's genuinely impossible to with any credibility because after 2/3 of a season habitated by an average margin of loss against low mid-majors like the Stetson Hatters exceeding 12 points per game, followed by increasing/worsening offense and defense, Jeff Bzdelik is astonishingly slower than Dino Gaudio ever was at adapting & improving.

We're in the ACC, supposedly the top BCS basketball conference, is 2/3 of a season against the statistically weakest opponents on schedule a reasonable sample size to measure a coach's standard of competitiveness in terms of his ability to adapt and improve the state of the program this season and looking to the future? I think all but the most bizarrely infatuated with Bdzelik consider that plenty time to show what you offer.

The future of the basketball program - our crown jewel program - is at stake, this isn't like talking about whether or not to hire/fire a new frolf coach. We ought to demand more

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