Wake Forest defeated Piedmont International 118-48, and as Samurai noted in his recap, was overwhelmingly the better team in every single aspect of the game. While he focused more on the singular event of the game (since it was a recap article), I wanted to examine the game a bit more and provide some takeaways from the game and what it means moving forward.
Examining how Coach Danny Manning utilized players, and who they were getting time with on the court provides more insight than the stats or the margin of victory for the Deacs.
Full disclaimer that these thoughts are based on one game, and will probably be wrong in a few spots as the year goes along. We can look back for fun in February if we want to.
The final score really means nothing to me because PIU was so clearly an inferior team that it was hard to take much away, especially as it pertains to the Wake Forest offense.
It is clear to me that the starting lineup is pretty much set at every position except for the shooting guard spot. That means a: Crawford, Wilbekin/Woods, Arians, Mitoglou, and Collins starting lineup.
Mitchell Wilbekin started the game at the two, and played 21 minutes, finishing with 11 points (3-7 from behind the arc). Charlotte transfer Keyshawn Woods came off the bench and provided 24 minutes, along with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
I am guessing that Wilbekin will start for the two games this weekend, but Woods is the better all-around player. Woods is the best on-ball defender we have right now, and also likes to get after it inside with his frame. Despite both being shooting guards, they have very different games, and I think Coach Manning can use them both effectively in different spots.
While I believe Woods is the better player, and will eventually be the starter, I’m much more interested in how they are used situationally than who starts.
Milwaukee transfer Austin Arians looked really good right off the bat, hitting a three on the first offensive possession. He has a quick release and squares his body to the basket very well. His three-point shooting will be pretty big asset for the team, especially if he gets a lot of time out there with Woods and two other bigs.
My biggest concern overall is the defense right now. Despite winning by 70, the game was 28-20 at one point in the first half, and a lot of that was due to poor closing out on perimeter shooting. That is something that has plagued Wake Forest for seemingly 10 years now.
The starting lineup has questionable defense at the 2-4 positions, and it will be interesting to see if we play any zone when they are on the court to hide some of the athletic deficiencies in lateral foot speed on the defensive end.
John Collins looks like he has taken a big step forward during the off-season, and will be very difficult to handle in the low post, even in the ACC. Combining his skill level and the notably improved conditioning of Doral Moore, and that provides a great one-two punch inside, even if they don’t see a lot of minutes together on the court.
The freshmen are a bit of a different story in my first live look at them. Based on the obviously limited first game sample size, as well as how Coach Manning used Washington, Mitchell, and SJM (meaning...he didn’t until late in the game), it seems like Brandon Childress will be the only freshman who will be expected to have an impact early on.
I was very impressed with Childress’ demeanor, ball-handling, and ability to find the open man. He seems very interested in getting assists, and several times found open teammates on fast breaks at the expense of taking it to the rim for a contested layup. He finished with 13 points and 8 assists in 20 minutes, with just one turnover.
With Bryant Crawford a little banged up from a practice incident a couple of weeks ago, it’s good to see that Chill can handle the rock a bit and allow Wilbekin to play at the two more than the one.
There is a lot of potential for freshman big man Sam Japhet-Mathias, but he is really, really, raw. He finished with 12 points on 9 shots inside in his 10 minutes, but there is a long way to go before he will be effective in the ACC, especially given Collins, Mitoglou, and Moore in front of him.
It was hard to get much out of Washington and Mitchell, as they played a combined 13 minutes. This alone tells me that they are likely the 10th and 11th men on the team right now, with perhaps one of them coming in for more minutes as the year goes along to spell Arians/McClinton at the 3. It’s more likely at this juncture that we run a fair amount of three-guard lineups when they need to be rested than to see extensive playing time from Washington/Mitchell.
Despite going just 9/27 from behind the three-point line, it is clear that there are a good amount of shooters on the team. Between Arians, Mitoglou, Wilbekin, Crawford, and Childress/Woods, Wake Forest should have a reliable outside threat to clear up room for Collins and Moore to operate inside. This will be beneficial to their development, as well as the success of the team as a whole.
Overall, the team is just more balanced. There are reliable big men, shooters, and a tenacious point guard in Bryant Crawford to run the offense. Defense still has a lot of question marks, but that is something that will improve as time on the court together increases.
If I had to slot roles right now I would break it down the following (with off the top of my head minute projections):
PG: Crawford (30), Childress (5), Wilbekin (5)
SG: Wilbekin (15), Woods (20), Childress (5)
SF: Arians (20) , McClinton (15), Woods (5), Washington (spot)
PF: Mitoglou (25), Collins (15), Mitchell (spot)
C: Collins (15), Moore (15), SJM (spot)
There’s always the chance that we could play Trent VanHorn for 10 minutes a game, but given the freshmen we need to develop, I would hope that those minutes go to them. No slight at all to VanHorn, as he has done an admirable job the past year and a half.
In my eyes, we will consistently go 9 deep throughout a good part of the game, and then get SJM/Washington/Mitchell in spot situations or as foul trouble develops.
This weekend Wake Forest takes on Redford on Friday night, followed by Bucknell on Sunday. These games will provide a much better idea of where Wake is than any competition they have played so far. I would guess the Deacs are about a 15-20 point favorite over the Highlanders, and 10-12 over Bucknell.