Wake Forest opens up its 2015-2016 basketball schedule tonight in Winston-Salem, welcoming Division II UNC-Pembroke to the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7PM between the Deacs and the Braves. While UNC-Pembroke is an exhibition opponent, it is one of the stronger teams that Wake Forest has faced in recent history. The Braves are ranked 13th/10th in two different Division II polls and were tabbed pre-season to win the 14-team Peach Belt Conference, receiving eight of a possible 13 points.
This will be the second exhibition game for the Braves, who are coming off of a 100-92 victory over the All-Army team. It is difficult to discern how good the All-Army team is, but it appears to be comprised of players who have at least some collegiate experience in the past.
The victory marked the third consecutive exhibition win for UNC-Pembroke. They defeated Athletes In Action and eventual C-USA Champions UAB last year.
In the victory over the All-Army team, UNC-Pembroke was led in scoring by Brandon Watts and Quamain Rose with 20 points. Rose also chipped in 13 rebounds and 6 assists in the cause (but supplemented that with 7 turnovers). The full box score can be found here
Last year the Braves finished with a 26-6 overall record, averaging 80.2 PPG. They return their top three leading scorers from last season in guard Quamain Rose, Brandon Watts, and Brandon Winford. Rose appears to be an interesting player, because he is listed at 6-0, 170, but pulled down 6.3 boards a game.
As we projected, the lineup will likely be:
PG- (Fr) Bryant Crawford
SG- (So) Mitchell Wilbekin
SF- (RS So) Greg McClinton
PF- (So) Dinos Mitoglou
C- (Sr) Devin Thomas
With the news that Andre Washington might redshirt this year (for currently not known reasons), that leave just two scholarship true freshmen to spell the starting five in John Collins and Doral Moore. The additional scholarship went to Trent VanHorn, who will likely see time at the guard position out of necessity.
Three Things to Watch For
1. Game and Roster Management- An uptempo offense in addition to a short bench does not usually produce favorable results, so I will be interested to see how Coach Manning manages his timeouts and the official timeouts to the advantage of Wake Forest. Game management from the coaches is certainly something that I will be paying close attention to in the early season. It was something that produced struggles at times last year.
2. The Freshmen- It is the first game of collegiate basketball for the three freshmen, all of whom are expected to carry a pretty heavy workload. True freshman Bryant Crawford will make his collegiate debut and run the point in place of the injured Codi Miller-McIntyre. I expect him to be a feast or famine type player for the first few weeks. He will likely make a lot of plays that make fans get on their feet, but also make mistakes that produce groans as well. It will be a learning experience for him, and would not surprise me to see a 15 points, 7 assist, 5 turnover type outing for his first game.
Doral Moore and John Collins will both be asked to bang around inside and wreak some havoc when Devin Thomas and Dinos Mitoglou need breathers. Moore pulled down an estimated 10 rebounds in the scrimmage versus Georgia, but it sounds like it could have been a bigger night for him if he secured ones he got his hands on.
I am eager to see what these three guys bring to the table, as a lot of the early season success that we have will be dependent on their contributions.
3. The Pace of Play- The 80.2 points per game would have ranked 6th in Division I last year, while Wake Forest ranked 26th in tempo last year. When you factor in the fact that UNC-P likes to get up and down the court, the Deacs like to get up and down the court, and the 30 second shot clock, I expect this to be a high-scoring affair.
When you throw in the fact that a true freshman is running the point in a high possession game there will likely be a fair number of mistakes made, particularly early on as he adjusts to the speed of the college game. It should be a good viewing experience for the average fan, and I would recommend if you are on the fence about going (as I'm sure most people reading this are not) to head out to the Joel and watch some basketball.
Overall there is no doubt that Wake Forest has more talent than UNC-Pembroke, but the Braves have a lot of experience and confidence headed into the year. This game will probably be closer than a lot of people want it to be, (UAB was ranked 164th in KenPom last year when they lost to UNC-P, Wake Forest enters the year at 60th) but it is a good test for the young Wake Forest team.
I believe the Deacs will get a victory out of tonight, but there may be some trepidation late in the game to get the win.
Wake Forest will open its regular season next Friday against the UMBC Retrievers at 8 PM.