The non-conference schedule is now over and Manning has gone 8-5 against non-conference opponents. What are your thoughts on him as a coach?
Chris: It's still very early to tell that much about Danny Manning, but there are some indicators on the stat sheet already that he has the guys playing hard. The dReb% stat is probably the most telling. Size and strength aren't exactly our strongest suits, but we crash the boards very well. Considering the situation he inherited, there's room to be optimistic, especially since his recruits have largely panned out so far, his 2015 class looks good, and his offers in '16 and '17 are impressive. There was one awful game this season where the team not only looked unprepared but seemed disinterested, against Delaware State. Games like that are the one big concern I have left about Manning entering conference play. I like the shortened rotation and active substitution patterns, I like the spacing and sets on both ends, and I like how Devin and Codi have both recovered from slumps this year.
Shayn: Overall, I am happy with what Manning has done. There has been some high points in games such as Florida, where the team really battled despite being stuck with only 2 guards, and Princeton where we were spreading the floor and getting scoring from everyone. The lows were Arkansas, Iona, and Delaware State. Against Arkansas I was disappointed in the teams ability to handle the press that Arkansas has been using for 25 years. The downfall against Iona was horrible shooting in the first half and then a coaching blunder to seal the loss. I love that Manning pretty much uses the whole bench, and has really addressed the outside shooting issues were expected to be crippling. I also love how the team looks to get out in transition and isn't relying on just Codi and Devin in the half court.
Nick: Obviously I've been really pleased with the ongoing recruiting efforts by Coach Manning. As far as his in-game coaching, I think there has been some ups and downs. He's working with a roster that he didn't build, so in that sense we have to cut him some slack. The losses to Iona and Delaware State were bad, no way around that, but the team has strung together a couple of nice wins against Richmond and Princeton. I also like how he has given the younger guys a lot of playing time. Wilbekin and Hudson have put up some big minutes recently.
Matt: I've been thrilled. There have been some really bad, almost Bzdelik-level losses, granted, but I've never thought once "Dear lord, what were we thinking hiring Coach Manning?" To the contrary, I see Coach Manning already trying to change the program for the better, and I think he's really showing some chops as a coach. And that's not even factoring the recruiting, which has been off the charts (at least on paper).
Adam: I’ve been pleased with Manning thus far. The first year under any new coach for the most part is going to be difficult. Manning is playing with a few of his recruits and a bunch of guys that he inherited from the last
train wreck coach. We’ve already seen the ups and downs that we all expected at the beginning of the year. So sure we’ve lost some bad games to Delaware State and Iona, but I think the team under Manning has shown flashes of its true potential. The Florida game away from home could have been a win if not for the suspensions to Wilbekin and Cornelius Hudson. The Princeton game to me was the best game a Wake Forest team has played as a whole since Gaudio was fired. Throw in his ability to recruit, and I think the future is very bright with Manning at the helm.
What's the number one thing you're looking to see out of Wake Forest in ACC play?
Chris: I want to be competitive in every single game we play, even when we're extremely outmatched. We won't outshoot or outscore big dog teams, so I'd look for defensive intensity and some game planning to stand out in conference play. I also want to establish the roles of the players who will return next year firmly, like shooters, role players, lockdown defenders, etc. More so than results, I want to continue to see effort on this year's team. I'd also love it if we could steal some games against the other Big Four teams
Shayn: I want to see how the new comers adapt to the rigors of the ACC play. They have all had their moments where the future looks bright, but I think conference play is where it will be make or break.
Nick: I would like to see us pull off a signature win, or at least play close with one of the top teams in the conference. Even though we've been at the bottom of the conference in my fours years at Wake, the team has always surprised us with a couple exciting games. In 2012, we played a top-five Duke team to the wire. Sophomore year it was another close game against Duke and then of course the huge upset of Miami. Finally, last season we had the huge home win, once again against Duke. It would be nice to upset the Blue Devils to close out these past four years.
Matt: I'm with Nick. One big win but just generally competitive play will have me content. I'll also be looking for the team to keep showing progress as far as gaining an identity. Do we have a solidified starting lineup? Will CMM continue his momentum in terms of solidifying his point guard play? Will the aggressiveness on defense and on the boards continue? Will we be able to continue countering runs from big teams, even if we can't get over the top? I hope the answer to all of those is yes, but those are the questions I'll be asking regardless.
Adam: I just want for the Deacs to be competitive. We don’t need to win a ton of games, but I’d like us to go on the road and not be down by 20 at the half. Hopefully we can also make the Joel a tough place for visiting teams to play in. I’m very interested to see how the freshmen play and adjust to the speed of the ACC.
Wake Forest is already 0-1 in the ACC, and Ken Pomeroy projects the Deacs to finish 5-13. Does this seem too high, too low or just about right?
Chris: The ACC is tough at the top and bad at the bottom, and has room in the middle for mediocre teams to win more games than they should. I don't know if this year's team has the skill players to step up and win more than 5 or 6 games in the ACC, but I certainly don't think it's out of the realm of possibility. There have been flashes this year (against admittedly poor teams) where the Deacs look like they could hang with just about anybody. It's sustained effort and depth that will be the difference maker in a lot of games this year. After I fully expect us to go 0-3 to start conference play, and teams like Virginia seem like certain losses or at least terrible matchups, I think 5 wins is a reasonable prediction.
Shayn: I think that is about right. I think we will go 6-12 with conference wins against Georgia Tech, UNC, Clemson, Virginia Tech, State, and Miami.
Nick: Five or six wins seems right in our wheelhouse. I'd like to think we can improve on our conference record from the past two seasons, but I don't think all the freshmen are up to that challenge.
Matt: Seems about right, and I'd put the deviation one way or the other at about 1.5 wins.
Adam: 5-13 seems accurate to me, but I am terrible at predicting who will win. Hopefully we could at least do well in our home games against GT, VT, Miami, State, and Pitt. I think we can win 3-4 of those games and then pickup wins against BC and Clemson on the road. But again, I’m horrible at this type of question.
Wake plays a number of top 25 opponents at home this season. Which game(s) do you think is/are Wake's best chance(s) to pull off an upset?
Chris: Of the current top 25 teams we have on our home schedule, I think the most vulnerable is UNC. I just don't see Duke, Lousiville, or UVA getting upset this year. They seem to me to all be legitimate title contenders without significant weaknesses. Carolina is tough, but not so tough that they can't be beat. I think our length and athleticism will bother fringe top 25 teams, and we should be able to hang with anybody outside the current top 5 in the country.
Shayn: I think the best chance to pull an upset is going to be UNC and NC State. In order to win both of those games we will need to guard the perimeter as Turner, Lacey, and Paige are lethal from deep. It will also be crucial for Devin to stay out of foul trouble as I think he is the only one on our team who can guard Meeks and Anya. I have Miami as a win but I actually think its the least likely of the three teams I suspect to be in the top 25 at some point in the season.
Nick: Realistically, our best chance will be against UNC on Jan. 21. Though as I mentioned before I'm still holding out for once last upset of Duke.
Matt: I'm with Nick here, too. UNC most likely, Duke ideal.
Adam: I’d have to say if we we’re going to win one, it would be UNC. With the students back at WFU, hopefully the Joel will be packed. We beat UNC at home last year, so no reason why we can’t do it this year. Unless someone else in the ACC gets ranked later, I don’t see us beating Louisville, Duke or UVA anywhere or ND on the road. But again, I’m terrible at predicting these things.