The 2013 basketball season opens tonight at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons host the Colgate Red Raiders. Colgate, a member of the Patriot League, will make the trip to Winston-Salem after a 2012-13 campaign in which they finished 11-21 and failed to make the NCAA tournament.
Matt Langel returns for his 3rd season as the head coach of the Raiders. Last season, Colgate had a difficult time on offense as they only averaged 63.5 points per game and merely 0.94 points per possession. The Raiders were also below the D-1 average when it came to forcing turnovers (15.2%) and producing offensive rebounds (26.2%). Colgate loses over 30% of its scoring with the departure of 6'11 center John Brandenburg, guard Mitch Rolls and forward Brandon James.
For the Red Raiders, it begins and ends with senior forward Murphy "Optic White" Burnatowski. In 2012-13, Burnatowski possessed the ball 30% of the time, took 35% of the shots (5th highest in D-I) and still managed to boast an offensive efficiency rating of 101. Though Burnatowski took more shots than Lindsay Lohan, he still managed to make 35% of his 3's, 48% of his 2's and 73% of his free throws. The Deacs will also want to keep an eye on sharp shooting senior guard Pat Moore who hit 40% of his shots from deep. Look for senior forward Clayton Graham to crash the glass and be a presence in the paint.
If you missed it, Coron Williams put on a clinic against Brevard College. Despite playing limited minutes, Williams was able to get it done in a multitude of ways; including 24 points (6 three-pointers), 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Aside from Williams, I was extremely impressed with Madison Jones and Aaron Rountree. I wrote last week about the importance of getting penetration and producing high-quality shots. Jones did just that, dishing out 9 dimes in addition to a 10-point effort. Jones appeared to be the most efficient player on the court, and his quick first step sets up easy buckets for teammates. Aaron Rountree is quickly becoming my favorite superhero. What I love about Rountree is that you know exactly what you are going to get with him, effort. He was an absolute presence on the defensive end with 8 rebounds and 3 steals while also patrolling the sky with 3 blocks.
Perhaps the biggest take away from the exhibition game was the disaster at the free throw line, as the Deacons shot an abysmal 35%. I spoke last week about the importance of finishing at the foul line, but apparently the guys didn't read my post. As a team, whose strength lies in its frontcourt, this is definitely a cause for concern and may ultimately destroy my liver if improvements are not made. Defense was also an issue at times, as Wake spent the majority of the game in a full court press and a 1-2-1-1 defense. Brevard had way too many open looks from deep and were able to get a wealth of second chance opportunities (13 offensive rebounds) despite being extremely undersized. I do like the 1-2-1-1 with our personnel, but I don't understand why Tyler Cavanaugh is the point man in this scheme. I would prefer to see Rountree up top because of his ability to break up passes and get out in transition.
Friday will bring a fresh start for this Wake Forest team; they can ignore the past and focus on getting back to being an exciting and competitive team. I think Wake is the superior team, but they need to make sure they know where Burnatowski is at all times. Burnatowski has the ability to put up huge numbers (35 points against Army, 24 points and 12 rebounds against Marquette) if he is given quality looks. I expect the Deacs to push the ball and to continue attacking the offensive glass. Of course, the Deacs need to have a better showing at the free throw line as there is absolutely no excuse for last weeks performance. I also hope to see more energy out of Codi Miller-McIntyre, as he tends to disappear at times. Defensively Wake should be able to force turnovers, as Colgate will have an inexperienced point guard in Luke Roh.
Wake Forest 83
Come out and support the Deacs, if you cannot attend the game it will be showing on ESPN3. As always, go Deacs!