It is hard to believe, but the college basketball season is finally upon us. Tonight our beloved Wake Forest Demon Deacons will kick off their season when they welcome the Radford Highlanders to the LJVM for a 7:30 tip-off.
In case you were wondering (because I was), the game is at 7:30 due to Jennifer Hoover and the Wake Forest Women’s Basketball team starting their year at the Joel at 4:00. Get on over there after work and help support the Lady Deacs as well!
This marks the third year at the helm for head coach Danny Manning, who currently holds a 24-38 (7-29 record in ACC play). We have previewed the team already, and this should be the deepest squad that Manning has coached so far, but it is still young.
Radford hails from the Big South conference are coached by Mike Jones, who is entering his 6th year as the Highlanders head coach. Jones has an overall record of 79-85, including a 16-15 season last year that ended in a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to Presbyterian in the first round of the Big South Tournament.
Unfortunately for Jones, he lost his top two players in Rashun Davis and Cameron Jones to graduation, along with two other seniors in Brandon Holcomb and Kion Brown. While not much is known about the Highlanders nationally, it will be a work-in-progress for Coach Jones. The Highlanders were picked to finish 6th in the Big South, wedged between High Point and Charleston Southern.
One guy to watch out for is sophomore Ed Polite, who is a 6-5, 200 pound forward, but quite adept at rebounding the ball, especially on the offensive glass. He made the Big South All-Freshman Team last season, averaging 8.7 PPG and 7.4 RPG.
In assessing trends in teams that Mike Jones has coached at Radford, they have been fast paced and slow paced in terms of tempo, with the past two years being his slowest, ranking 265th and 280th respectively. I would expect that to continue tonight, as the Highlanders try to shorten the game and limit the gap between the Wake Forest athletes and the Radford athletes.
Another stat that sticks out is how often his teams allow opposing offenses to shoot the three-point ball, as well as rack up high assist percentage numbers.
While Radford knocked off Georgetown 82-80 in double overtime to start the season last year, 80% of that starting lineup is gone, and it is a thoroughly different team.
I have seen a Vegas line at 11.5 points for tonight, but Ken Pomeroy has it at a more aggressive 16 point victory (81-65) in favor of the Demon Deacons.
It will be interesting to see what lineup Coach Manning trots out tonight, as he has yet to release it, and is keeping everything close to the vest. I would guess that the Deacs roll with the same starting lineup as last week, with perhaps Keyshawn Woods starting at the 2 spot over Mitchell Wilbekin.
If that is the case, then it will look like this to start the year:
PG: Bryant Crawford
SG: Keyshawn Woods
SF: Austin Arians
PF: Dinos Mitoglou
C: John Collins
Height is going to be a big issue for Radford, and simply put, I just don’t think they have enough big men to counter everybody that Coach Manning has at his disposal. If I were a betting man (which I am), I would take Wake Forest and the 11.5 points, and actually like the Deacs to kick their season off in style with a 20+ point victory over the Highlanders
Wake Forest - 85
Radford - 62
Comments are always welcome, and I can’t wait to get this season underway!!!