Well the first two days of the Wake Forest Basketball Tournament have seen all the voting take place so far (and the results will be in this week - we promise!) and it's time to shift our focus to the right side of the bracket. With four games complete, four games still remain and today's games take place in the McKinney Bracket where the top seeded 2004-2005 Demon Deacons will take on the 2003-2004 Demon Deacons in game one followed closely after by game two featuring the 2008-2009 Demon Deacons against the 1960-1961 Wake squad.
1. 2004-05 Demon Deacons v. 4. 2003-04 Demon Deacons
In a tantalizing matchup between the best point guard to ever play at Wake Forest and..well, the freshman version of himself, Chris Paul will get the phenomenal opportunity to score, pass, and play defense against himself. While the difference between these two teams is not great (aside from another year of experience), the 2003-04 squad may be remembered more fondly by some Demon Deacon fans due to their Sweet Sixteen appearance - one game further than the older version would go a year later. Will this be enough for the 2003-04 team to sneak by their more experienced counterpart? Let's check out what to expect from each of the teams.
The 2004-05 Wake Forest team produced one of the best offensive teams of the KenPom era (dating back to 2002). In fact, only one team since 2002 has had a better offensive efficiency when adjusted for strength of schedule since the 2004-05 team (2014 Michigan). This roster had a little bit of everything featuring Chris Paul at the point guard spot, Justin Gray at the two (a viable three point threat), Vytas Danelius as a stretch big who could shoot the outside jumper, as well as two solid bigs in Jamaal Levy and Eric "Big E" Williams.
The team became the first squad in Wake Forest to be ranked number one in the nation and was ranked as the preseason number one team by ESPN The Magazine (featuring hometown hero Chris Paul on the cover). Despite a phenomenal regular season, Wake fell in the first round of the ACC Tournament without CP3 on the court (due to the Hodge nut punch) and then fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to West Virginia in one of the greatest games you will ever see. Senior Taron Downey refused to let the team lose until he simply could not make any more plays and the Deacs fell in double overtime ending what was arguably their greatest regular season ever.
The 2003-04 Wake squad featured a similar starting lineup with a one year-younger version of Chris Paul, Justin Gray, Eric Williams, Taron Downey, Trent Strickland, Jamaal Levy, and Vytas Danelius as starters and key contributors. This team, also led by Skip Prosser, ranked number one in the nation in offensive efficiency (just as the 2004-05 team did) and ultimately finished the year ranked as the 18th best team on KenPom. The Deacs made the NCAA Tournament on the back of a 19-9 record against the third hardest schedule in the nation before rattling off two wins against VCU and Manhattan to earn a chance against 30-1 St. Joseph's. Despite a hard-fought game, Wake couldn't overcome Delonte West and Jameer Nelson. Each put up 24 points while playing every single minute of the game and the Deacs fell 84-80, thus ending their season.
Will youth upset experience or is the older version of these teams going to prevail in a head to head matchup?
1. 2004-05 Demon Deacons
4. 2003-04 Demon Deacons
2. 2008-09 Demon Deacons v. 3. 1960-61 Demon Deacons
The 2008-09 Demon Deacons started off the season in ridiculous fashion, taking an undefeated season into January and becoming only the second team (and final as of right now) in Wake history to be ranked number one in the nation. Despite this great start, the team stumbled at the end of the season with head coach Dino Gaudio at the helm and the Deacs lost both their ACC Tournament opener to Maryland and their NCAA Tournament opener to Cleveland State despite being the favored four seed. Indeed, the Vikings led 9-0 early on and never looked back sending the Deacs packing from pretty much the get-go.
Despite the sour taste at the end of the season, the metrics actually like the 2008-09 team quite a bit. Led by Al-Farouq Aminu, Jeff Teague, Ish Smith, and James Johnson, Gaudio's squad ultimately finished ranked 27th in KenPom and went 24-7 overall. Implementing a variation of the pack line defense (made immensely popular recently by Tony Bennett and Virginia), Wake ranked 31st overall in defense and was well-regarded for using their talent, length, and athleticism to break up passing lanes. Offensively, the team struggled against zone defenses and appeared to not always have cogent play calls in mind against well-disciplined defenses. The 1960-61 team certainly has a legitimate opportunity to knock off the highly touted 2009 quad.
We've seen a lot of action from the guys who make up the 1960-61 team already in the Tournament as the 1962 Final Four team, as well as the 1960 regular season ACC champions have already been covered in the All-Time Tournament so far. This team, led by Len Chappell inside and Billy Packer at the guard position, went 19-11 overall including an 11-3 record in the ACC - good enough for second during the regular season. The Deacs went on a solid run in the ACC Tournament, capturing their first one ever (of four) and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. Wake blew out St. John's in the first round of the tournament and snuck by St. Bonaventure before the Deacs were ultimately upended by St. Joseph's in the Elite Eight. One year later, Wake would go one step further and break through to the Final Four. The team spent only one week ranked, but was the crème of the crop in the ACC and with Chappell averaging 26 and 14 over the course of the season this team will be a tough out (as will any squad with Chappell in the middle).
Can the 1960-61 team do enough to knock off an athletic and talented 2008-09 team? This could be one of the best and closest games of the first round.
2. 2008-09 Demon Deacons
3. 1960-61 Demon Deacons
The recaps for the first few games will likely be up by the end of the week and we hope you all continue voting through the conclusion of the first round tomorrow. The Elite Eight matchups will begin next week to set the stage for the All-Time Demon Deacon Final Four. As always, thanks for reading and go Deacs!
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