1. What are your opinions of Manning after one season?
Chris: I'm on the fence about Danny Manning. I want to suspend judgment for a while. He can win me over with a serviceable 2015 commit (failing a big name, a decent postgrad shooter would be nice) and a big time 2016 class. I don't buy the narrative that he's a bad bench coach -- I think it's way too early to tell. I'd like to see what he can do with his guys out there.
Adam: Overall, I’m excited for the future with Manning at the helm. Sure our record wasn’t great, but that’s to be expected under a new coach with someone else’s players. The main things that have me excited for Manning as head coach are his defense, his recruiting ability, and the fact that he will bench anyone if they are not doing what he wants regardless of class or skill. The main thing that I didn’t like was the amount of times he subbed. Manning subbed so much I feel like it could be difficult for the players to get a rhythm for the game. Sometimes it seemed like right when a guy was starting to get it going on offense, Manning would sub him out.
Nick: I think most of us are willing to give Manning the benefit of the doubt for his first year. I would have obviously loved to have seen an improvement on last year's record, but that wasn't really possible against the ACC competition. Manning has flashed some recruiting skills, especially for some guys who weren't as highly regarded (Dinos, Young Crab). As for his in game coaching ability, I'm not really sure we have an answer to that question yet. You always hear the dilemma in sports, is the team good because of the players or the coach? Is Bill Belichick the key to the Patriots' success or is it Tom Brady? Or is it both? I don't think we'll be able to answer that question for Manning until he has some better talent on the team.
Griffin: I am very optimistic about Coach Manning. Sure he's inexperienced as a head coach, but it's great to finally have a coach with a winning pedigree who takes responsibility for his actions. He, almost comically, refuses to accept moral victories. He wasn't satisfied with a 1-point road loss to Virginia. He wants to win, and win at all costs. On another level, he can relate to players well and has a great resume of player development. Both of these factors will bring top tier talent to Winston-Salem.
2. What were you most impressed with about the basketball team this past season?
C: I think the most impressive stuff came from the freshmen this year. While Codi and Devin were the two best and most important players, all three freshmen (four if you count Greg) came in and contributed. Mitchell and Dinos gave the most, but I think Crab has the biggest upside. He's smooth. Rountree impressed me on and off the court, earning his degree early and continuing to earn playing time in spite of his glaring weaknesses.
A: I was definitely most impressed with the freshmen this year. Mitchell Wilbekin for a freshman has incredible control of the game and ball handling abilities. Dinos is a weapon in the pick and pop game, especially with a guy like Codi coming off the screen that the defense will have to bring help to keep him from getting to the basket. He also hit several big shots this year late in games (Richmond, at UVA, Pitt). Hudson is a great shooter that also showed a knack for getting to the basketball, and had many offensive rebounds this year.
N: I agree that it has to be the freshmen. They were about as consistent as their upperclassmen counterparts. I'm all in on Young Crab.
G: I'm going to change it up and say Wake's defensive rebounding abilities. Wake finished 22nd in the nation- and was top 10 until the snoozefests to end the season- in DR% at 73.6%. This is a stark contrast from last season's team that finished 281st in the nation at 66.3 percent. This amounts to about 5 rebounds a game! As Manning builds a bigger and more physical team to match his style, these rebounding figures will only improve.
3. What bothered/concerned you regarding the basketball team?
C: The way the team fell apart down the stretch was too reminiscent of teams past that I'd just as soon forget about. In the first two thirds of the season, Wake was rarely out of games completely. The team was far too reliant on the three point shot. They lost focus on the defensive end and rebounding the ball as the season went on.
A: One of the things that bothered me was the interior defense. Teams scored way too easily in the paint against the Deacs this year (Christmas for Syracuse, GT and UNC). I think this is more a result of our team not having much height or size inside, and hopefully the addition of tall incoming freshmen will improve this. Another thing that worried me was the lack of a road win and our ability to not close out, mainly due to being atrocious at the foul line.
N: Free throw shooting is definitely up there. Wake finished 332nd in free throw shooting on the national level out of 351 qualifiers. Interestingly, Wake was actually very good at getting to the line. They were tied for 30th in that category at 23.5 attempts per game. So they were just terribly inefficient at converting those opportunities, often when it mattered most at the end of games.
G: Hopefully the team learns the definition of FREE in free throws.
4. What will you remember most about this past season?
C: I honestly doubt I will remember much about this season five years from now. I liked the feeling of knowing there was a winner on our sidelines, someone who'd done basically nothing but win his whole career. I hope I can remember this year as the year before Manning turned things around.
A: I’ll probably remember Codi’s dunk against Duke, Devin’s tip-in against Richmond at the buzzer, and the Cornelius Hudson pump fake that sent Cody Martin to the ground the most from this season.
N: I'd like to forget a good portion of this season. I suppose the win against N.C. State, now a Sweet Sixteen team, is what I'll best remember.
G: As said in The Dark Knight, "The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming." My freshman through junior years, the Wake basketball community was hopeless and many students were apathetic. Something changed this season. And its not Wake's record. Fans were optimistic after a barren winter. Student attendance (and overall raucousness) improved dramatically. Years from now, we will remember this year as the changing of the guard. A year that turned the page from a bleak past into a promising future.
5. With a veteran squad returning and 3 four star recruits coming in, what are the expectations for next season and what has to happen for Wake to make the tournament?
C: I want 19 wins next year. It's a pretty big leap, but the team should be a lot better with Devin and Codi as seniors and the freshmen coming in. I'm still not comfortable measuring success in wins alone, though. If Manning is going to institute a defensive style like he did at Tulsa, I'd like to start seeing some results in terms of defensive efficiency, rebounding, and just positioning. We got burned by switching too much and guys getting out of position. I'll be interested to see if we go bigger with the guys coming in and especially heading towards 2016 with the potential for a big class, to see if we can find some shooters in the program.
A: Next year I’m really hoping that the Deacs can be in the middle of the pack in the ACC and maybe even have a shot at the NIT. I think for that to happen, Codi and Devin are going to need to lead the team on the court and set the tone. Obviously the interior defense and free throw shooting needs to improve, and we’re going to have to win some games on the road.
N: We absolutely need to have a winning record next season. I think that we will, but this team needs to simply have more talent to have a shot at postseason play. Unfortunately I think expecting much more out of Codi or Devin is unrealistic. Growth will have to come from the younger guys.
G: It is critical that we have a winning record and put Wake Forest back on the basketball map. Record-wise, Manning had a complete pass for this past season. Next season, not so much. Incremental improvement is necessary for Wake to be "in ACC contention every year." On top of that, I hope we regain competitiveness in the Big Four and start to beat them in the Joel. I'd like to take two of the three home games next year against UNC, Duke and NC State.