The 2013 basketball season begins Friday night for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum with an exhibition game against the Tornados of Brevard College. Brevard, a Division II member of the South Atlantic Conference, will be making the trip east after a disappointing 2012-13 season in which they finished 4-22.
Brevard coach Lee Burgess returns for his 2nd season at the helm, with a solid foundation of young players. The biggest loss for Brevard is guard Gerel Simmons who contributed 14.3 points per game and shot an impressive 47.5% from beyond the arc. Aside from Simmons, Brevard will be returning the bulk of their rotation.
Brevard fields a small lineup that will likely look to push the ball. Wake Forest will want to keep an eye on guard Dominique Pickett. Pickett returns for his senior season with the Tornados after averaging 15.6 points per game, including a 31-point effort against Newberry. Manzey Miller had a promising freshmen year and is expected to be Brevard's biggest long-range threat, as he shot 41.1% last season. Sophomore center Alex Moe is a versatile big man who has the ability to stretch the floor and patrol the paint.
The Demon Deacons will be looking to improve upon a disappointing 2012-13 season in which they went 13-18 (6-12 in the ACC), and failed to make the NCAA tournament for the 3rd straight season. Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik is in his 4th season, and has felt immense pressure after going 32-60 (11-42 in the ACC) in that span. One key loss for the Deacons is the graduation of C.J. Harris. Harris will not only be missed on the score sheet, where he averaged 15.4 points per game and shot 44% from behind the arc, but also in the locker room where he was a veteran leader.
The Deacs are bring back the majority of their rotation, which will be led by senior forward Travis McKie and sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre. Friday will also be the first time fans see Robert Morris transfer Coron Williams in gold and black. It will be interesting to see how Bzdelik uses the talented guard's ability to stretch the defense and consistently knock down the three ball (hitting 42.3%); something the Deacons struggled with last season (hitting 33%).
I believe this team's success largely depends on the development of sophomores Miller-McIntyre and Thomas. Miller-McIntyre played very well as a true freshman, but I would like to see more drives to the basket as he was only able to get to the line 46 times. Having Williams in the backcourt should open up more space for Miller-McIntyre, and allow him to get into the paint and produce quality shots for teammates. Thomas, on the other hand, had no problem getting to the stripe (127 free throw attempts), however his inability to finish (55%) hurt his offensive efficiency. Thomas has shown promise by making 30 of his last 40 attempts at the line to end the season. If Wake can do a better job at getting the ball into the paint they would have far more success closing out games and staying in games when they are not shooting particularly well from the field.
This will be Wake's last chance to improve team chemistry before hosting Colgate to begin the season. Bzdelik has run a higher than average tempo in his three seasons at Wake, which has resulted in a relatively low efficiency rating (0.95 points per possession). This game should be an opportunity to clean up on turnovers and to produce high-percentage shots. Wake Forest will have a significant size advantage, as Brevard's biggest player is 6'7 center Moe. Look for Wake to slow the pace early and attempt to capitalize on the overwhelming size advantage of players like McKie, Thomas, and Tyler Cavanaugh. I expect Wake to attempt to work from the inside out and get to their bench early with guys like Aaron Rountree III and Cavanaugh. Brevard's ability to shoot the three and run in transition may cause some problems, but I think Wake will dominate the glass and win comfortably.
Wake Forest 76