Keeping Thine Enemies Closer: Wake Forest vs. Xavier

Xavier coach Chris Mack shouts instructions during a recent contest. - Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Blogger So Dear chats with the fine folks at Banners On The Parkway to preview the Skip Prosser Classic and expand on the legacy of the late Coach Prosser.

The dawn of every new year brings forth one of the most precious of gifts: hope. So, too, do winning streaks, which is where we find the Wake Forest Demon Deacon basketball team. In the midst of a lot of tumult not of their own making, the 2012-13 edition of the roundball Deacs stand one game above .500 as the conference season nears.

First up, though, is a date with the Xavier Musketeers on January 2 at the LJVM Coliseum. The Muskies are in the midst of a streak of their own, albeit of the losing variety. Admittedly, their struggles of late have come against the staunch half-court defenses of Cincinnati and Tennessee. Coached by Skip Prosser protege' Chris Mack, Xavier has been a NCAA Tournament mainstay the last three years, but with a record of 7-5 have some work to do in order for history to repeat itself.

Blogger So Dear turned to our friends at Banners On The Parkway in advance of Wednesday's tilt and asked some questions about the current state of the Muskies and the lingering impact of former Xavier and Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser. Many thanks to Brad and Joel for their assistance during the New Year's holiday! To see the answers to their questions (supplied by the inimitable Samurai Foochs), click here.

1) The Musketeers have hit a rough stretch going into conference play. What do you see is the reason for the slide, and what is needed to right the ship?

It basically comes down to a complete inability to score. Xavier is still playing borderline elite defense, especially in defending the arc, but they just cannot score at all unless they can get out and run. The adjusted efficiency numbers are still skewed from the 117 the Muskies dropped on FDU, but the current tempo of 64 (283rd in the nation) speaks to how teams slow the game and cripple Xavier.


2) Chris Mack has been successful thus far in Cincy, and may Wake Forest fans pine for him from afar. Aside from "he wins more than he loses," what are the qualities that Xavier fans like best about him?

Boy, it's an interesting time to ask that question, because Mack is starting to show some cracks. In an article that comes out today, Joel says "Unfortunately, we also managed to go an entire calendar year with the same basic problems. We stop feeding the post after about fifteen minutes. We look borderline disinterested for long stretches of play. Jeff Robinson. Our offense stagnates in the half court. I lay this mostly at the feet of Coach Mack." Coach Mack has kept the program moving very well after Matta and Miller both bailed, but right now his offense in particular really looks suspect. Still, he's young, he's engaging on social media, he's witty, and he's very, very passionate about this team.

3) Complete this sentence: To beat this Xavier team, the young Deacons need to ________________.

Slow the pace and make Xavier score in a half court set.

4) Finally, Skip Prosser's impact is still felt around the Wake Forest community. Is the feeling mutual among Musketeer fans?

Absolutely. Both Skip and Pete Gillen before him are borderline revered on Victory Parkway. What is really amazing to me is how much the people that worked for Prosser quote him in conversations, interviews, and on Twitter. It's really a testimony to the man that he hasn't been reduced to a single phrase like Jim Valvano or been known only for his "coaching tree." He still makes a tangible daily impact.

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