In case you missed it, there is an undefeated Wake Forest basketball team...in fact, there are two undefeated Wake Forest basketball teams. While the men's team gets the majority of the focus around here (and really everywhere), the Jennifer Hoover-led Lady Deacs have also started the year with three consecutive wins.
This is the second straight year that Wake Forest has started 3-0, accomplishing the feat this season with wins over LSU, East Tennessee State, and Davidson.
Overall the team is very balanced in terms of experience. There are three freshmen, three sophomores, two juniors, two seniors, and two graduate transfers as well.
This balance, plus a top 25 recruiting class for next season, should be extremely beneficial for building program stability and getting the women's program where it needs to be (competitive in the ACC on a yearly basis, competing for NCAA Tournament bids).
Despite the loss of Dearica Hamby to the first round of the NBA Draft (the all-time leading scorer and rebounder at Wake Forest), the Deacs have used a balanced scoring attack to remain undefeated.
Much of that can be attributed to freshman Ariel Stephenson, a guard out of Prince George (VA), who is regarded as one of the best in her recruiting class in the nation. She has averaged 16.6 points per game while pulling down 5.7 rebounds a game as well.
For her efforts she was recognized by the NCAA as one of the top five players of the week:
Stephenson has received great assistance from junior Milan Quinn (averaging 11.7 PPG, and 9 RPG), and sophomore Amber Campbell (13.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG) to lead the Deacs to a 13 point average win margin through three games.
The Deacs have struggled from behind the three-point line, shooting just 25% on the season, but have dominated the boards by 12 a game, already generating 53 offensive rebounds (for approximately 18 extra possessions a game). When you combine that with forcing 62 turnovers that generates a lot of additional scoring opportunities despite the lower shooting percentage.
The 57.3% assist rate would place the Deacs just inside the top 100 in the men's game (not exactly comparable, but for context, certainly relevant).
The Deacs have eight players playing over 18 minutes per game, and have produced 32 steals in three games (compared to 23 steals for its opponents).
While this has been an encouraging start, the ACC is always one of the strongest in the country in WBB, and Coach Hoover will need to find a way to translate these early wins into conference victories as well.
According to Sagarin (a statistical model that is somewhat like KenPom for men's basketball), the Deacs are ranked 83rd in the country (13/15th in the ACC). According to this model they are about 10 point underdogs to Mizzou next week, and 12 point favorites over La Salle.
Last season Wake Forest started 4-0 and 6-1 before finishing the year 13-20 overall (including a woeful 2-14 in conference play). Hopefully the formula for sustained success is being implemented and some victories will be the result this year.
Wake Forest will go on the road for the first time this season on November 22nd when they head to Missouri. The game will be shown on the SEC Network at 7PM EST.
I would encourage an local Deacs to get out and check out what the team has to offer next Wednesday night (November 25th) when they host La Salle at 2 PM (day before Thanksgiving).