The Wake Forest Demon Deacons head into Tuesday's contest against #10 Xavier on a 5-game winning streak and with an 8-2 record. A win for Wake Forest would move the Deacs to 9-2 on the season, and probably into the top 25. I believe there's a legitimate argument to be made that Tuesday's game against Xavier is the biggest game that Wake Forest has played in 5 years. It is the biggest game since Wake Forest squared off against Texas in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
There's no denying that Wake Forest has had a lot of big wins over the past 5 years. During the 2012-2013 season, the Deacs beat #2 Miami 80-65. The home victory over #18 North Carolina State that season was also big. The following season, Wake Forest beat #19 North Carolina and #4 Duke at home. The North Carolina game was big. It moved Wake to 11-3 on the season, and 1-0 in the ACC, but Wake's best win up until that point just an overtime victory over Richmond. It was a very exciting victory, but there was also the thought that Wake Forest had a lame duck head coach at that point.
Danny Manning is in just his second year at Wake Forest. While his first season wasn't excellent improvement in terms of on the court results, there was noticeable improvement in consistent effort. Now, in year two, he has assembled an excellent freshman class, and he has already led the Deacs past Indiana, UCLA, and Arkansas. A win over #10 Xavier would have Wake Forest in excellent position headed into ACC play. For a team that probably has a ceiling of being a "bubble" team, those are some strong wins to have on a resume. The loss against Richmond certainly wasn't good, but I don't think it's fair to qualify that one as a "bad loss."
Wake Forest has a very legitimate chance to beat Xavier. Ken Pomeroy gives Wake Forest about 25% chance. Ideally it would be higher, but that's still a very reasonable opportunity to pull off an upset and get another signature win. Wake has tended to play to their level of competition this season. I anticipate that the players understand the magnitude of this game, and will give one of their strongest performances of the season.
It's not Duke. It's not North Carolina. But Xaiver is a damn good team and program, and the Deacs will need all of the support that they can get on Tuesday night. I urge all of you who can make this game to do so. If Wake Forest is going to become the program it once was, then it's going to have to start by beating top-10 opponents at the Joel. Let's get that place rocking, and let's get the Deacs back in the top 25.