The Danny Manning era of Wake Forest basketball will tip off against UNC-Asheville November 14th with many more questions than usual. In addition to a new style of play which will likely be more up-tempo and focused on defensive pressure, there are several question marks as to who will earn significant minutes aside from established juniors Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre. At least to the media, Manning has been very vague with his comments on who may be next in line, often claiming he expects the team to be balanced with possibly different third scorers stepping up each night.
To help begin this exercise I have listed below who I believe can play each position. These are in no particular order, but just to give an idea of the options at each standard position. I did not include senior Daniel Green, as he has not been cleared to play after recovering from two ACL tears over the past two seasons. The timetable for his return is unclear at this point in time.
Point Guard: Codi Miller-McIntyre, Madison Jones, Mitchell Wilbekin
Shooting Guard: Miles Overton, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Rondale Watson, Cornelius Hudson
Small Forward: Greg McClinton, Cornelius Hudson, Aaron Rountree
Power Forward: Devin Thomas, Darius Leonard, Aaron Rountree, Dinos Mitoglou
Center: Dinos Mitoglou, Andre Washington, Devin Thomas
Obviously, without having seen 6 of these players in a college basketball setting it's quite a guessing game at this point. One fact that is apparent is that Wake Forest desperately needs someone who can stretch the floor with his shooting to give CMM driving lanes and Thomas room to operate in the painted area (as Hubie Brown would say). The three backcourt candidates to serve this purpose seem to be Miles Overton, Mitchell Wilbekin and Cornelius Hudson. With these options it then becomes a question of whether Manning wants CMM to play on the ball or slash from the wing. Having a true freshman starting point guard is often dangerous in the ACC, so from my seat at this time my first instinct tells me a lineup of CMM, Overton and McClinton at the 1-3 makes a lot of sense. I would not be surprised to see Hudson at either the 2/3 as well, but having Overton and Hudson together would likely lead to defensive problems. It remains to be seen if Hudson can handle the ball well enough to be the only other handler on the floor aside from Miller-McIntyre.
On the blocks it will also be interesting to see who pairs with Thomas for the most minutes. It seems likely that it will be between Darius Leonard and Dinos Mitoglou, who also both have the ability to step out and knock down long range shots. The starting role may come down to who is the better rebounder and defender of the two. Mitoglou is a couple inches taller than Leonard and rebounded at a high rate at the U18 Euro Championships for Greece this summer. On the other hand, while Leonard has not proven to rebound at a high rate, he is stronger and has plenty of college experience to bank on. For this reason, I'll go with Leonard - at least to start the season.
As a result, this leaves me with CMM-Overton-McClinton-Leonard-Thomas as an opening night starting lineup (that is sure to be incorrect). This gives the Deacs two guys who can stretch the floor to help Thomas and CMM as well as a defensive stopper and player who should prove to be effective on the break in Greg McClinton. This would also allow Rountree and Jones to provide high energy off the bench (preferably not at the same time) and Hudson and Wilbekin to provide an extra scoring punch if necessary. Sub in Mitoglou and Washington for post depth and possible foul trouble and I think the rotation makes a lot of sense. Rondale Watson is another player who could add some versatility on the wing, but his true niche is an unknown at this point.
It is clear that Coach Manning could go several different ways based on his observations thus far in practice, so please post your suggestions/guesses in the comments below so that we can #EmbraceDebate. I would expect the rotation in February to look a lot different than it does in November as we see which newcomers stand out when the lights are on.
As an aside, here are a few novelty line-ups that should probably never be played together for obvious reasons:
Best shooting line-up: Wilbekin-Overton-Hudson-Leonard-Mitoglou
Best defensive line-up: Jones-CMM-McClinton-Thomas-Washington
Best ball-handling line-up: Jones-CMM-Hudson-Rountree-Thomas
Best winning by 30 line-up: Black Ice