It's been nearly eight months since the Wake Forest basketball team faced an NCAA basketball opponent and the Deacs are eager to hit the hardwood. The Deacons' campaign will begin at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum tonight at 7 P.M. in an exhibition game. Rollins, a D-II member of the Sunshine State Conference, loses four starters from a team that went 16-11 last year and failed to make the NCAA tournament.
The Tars' new lineup will feature four transfers from D-I schools. Two players, Kyle McClanahan and Adam Allen are from Florida, while Mitch Woods is from Appalachian State, and Lukas Winegarner is from Radford. The Tars are coached by Tom Klusman, who has been at Rollins since 1980 and needs just ten wins to reach the 600 win plateau. Rollins is picked to finish fourth in the Sunshine State Conference.
Rollins will be the third exhibition game of the season for the Deacons who played Brock and Ryerson during a trip to Canada in October. The Deacs were victorious in both games, but they were costly wins as Wake lost sophomore Daniel Green for the season with a torn ACL during the waning moments of the Brock game.
Wake will be looking to improve upon a 2012-13 season which witnessed the Deacs go 13-18 (4-12 in the ACC). Head coach Jeff Bzdelik is 21-42 (5-27 in the ACC) in two seasons at Wake Forest after taking over for a fired Dino Gaudio who led Wake to a number one national ranking and two NCAA tournament bids in three seasons while compiling a 62-31 overall record.
This is the final tuneup for Wake, who will play Radford in a week in the season opener for both teams. The Deacs are led by senior C.J. Harris, junior Travis McKie, and sophomore Chase Fischer, along with seven freshmen who will be playing their first home game as a Demon Deacon.
The results of tonight's game really aren't as big a deal as how the Deacons perform. It will be interesting to see how the freshmen look and the early season non-conference games are always a time to get used to the new players. I'm particularly excited to see how Codi Miller-McIntyre will fit into the Wake Forest offense at the point, along with projected freshman starters Tyler Cavanaugh and Arnaud Moto. Here's the Deacs projected starting lineup for tonight:
PG Codi Miller-McIntyre
SG C.J. Harris
SF Travis McKie
PF Arnaud Moto
PF/C Tyler Cavanaugh
Cavanaugh is a 6'9" big who was recruited heavily by Syracuse and will be thrown into the fire inside. It's always difficult for newcomers to learn how to battle, and Wake's frontcourt is heavily reliant upon freshmen particularly following Green's injury in Canada. McKie at the 3 position will be a critical component to stabilize the frontcourt and provide leadership to the new guys. Backups inside include Devin Thomas and Andre Washington. Rountree will likely float around position-wise but can play anywhere at the 2,3, or 4 position. I expect to see him predominantly at the 3 spelling for McKie when he is tired.
The backcourt is slightly more stable as senior C.J. Harris will be starting at the 2 position with Chase Fischer slated to see meaningful minutes throughout the season. Miller-McIntyre is Wake's mostly highly touted freshman entering the year and will be expected to handle the point throughout the year alongside backup Madison Jones. The three remaining freshmen: Thomas, Rountree, and Washington will also see minutes tonight as Bzdelik will most likely attempt to rotate a lot of guys in and out to get everyone meaningful minutes.
I think this game might be close for a little bit but I think Bzdelik is selling us a little short when stating that he "expects it to be a close one". I like Wake to win this one by 15-20.
If you can get out there tonight, please go and support the new guys in their first game as a Demon Deacon. As always, go Deacs!