Wake Forest went down to the Bahamas and took care of their three games with little to no excitement. This is pretty much exactly what was expected, and aside from some questionable play in the second game, everything went according to plan. The most important facet of this trip is that the team got 10 pre-season practices to gel and learn to play as a team. The three games were just a reward for those practices.
While it is still very early, as the Deacs tip off in a couple of months against Radford, there are some things that stuck out to me over the course of the three days that will be interesting to watch moving forward.
1. The freshmen overall are pretty raw
There is a lot of talent in the class that Coach Manning has brought in, and it is well spread over the five positions. The athleticism and energy is there, but the refinement and "college ready" skills are not there yet. It's still very early, and weight training, practices, and learning from the upperclassmen will help a lot, but right now I only see Brandon Childress as somebody who I would rely on for 10+ minutes a game at this point. Mitchell, Washington, and SJM all have the talent level there, but are behind upperclassmen who are ready to play.
2. Impact of the Transfers
Anybody that watched even a small part of the three games noticed immediately that Keyshawn Woods and Austin Arians will be impact transfers immediately. It is extremely likely that they both start at the 2 and 3 and provide a lot of substance to the team overall. They can both knock down threes consistently, move without the ball, and even were quite vocal on the court. Woods is also an excellent on-ball defender from my limited viewpoint, who can also attack the rim. These guys will provide great leadership and productivity for the Deacs this season.
3. Defense still looks shaky
Once again, I cannot stress enough that it is extremely early in the season, so I don't want to go overboard here, but defense still looks questionable at best, and shaky at worst. I understand that these were glorified scrimmages and not everybody is going to be going 100% all the time. That being said, the closeouts were extremely poor throughout the three games, and not getting a hand in the face of a three-point shooter is inexcusable. HAND DOWN, MAN DOWN. It seemed like the team was packing it in to avoid lane penetration, which did allow for a lot of these open shots, but what I did tire of seeing was men being lost in the corners, and open threes.
Defense is a very cohesive, team effort (fist is stronger than five fingers), that often takes time to come together and gel, but I am a little bit worried about what I saw from that standpoint.
4. Who is going to be the starting center?
The door is WIDE OPEN for the starting center spot, and there are a lot of different ways that Coach Manning can go about filling it. As you will see from my minutes projection below, I expect John Collins to start the season at the 5. Doral Moore and Samuel Japhet-Mathias both look raw and need refinement. I saw a lot of bright spots from both of them---whether they be court awareness and closing out from Moore, or soft touch and hook shots from SJM. With the amount of foul trouble that Moore and Collins got into last year, there needs to be an improvement defensively so they can stay on the court. That starts with defensive lateral quickness and playing defense with their feet instead of their body. SJM will take any minutes at the 5 that Collins and Moore do not fill out of the 40.
5. Protecting the ball
Turnovers were something that I was not happy with during the three games. I concede that it's a completely different game with 10 minute quarters and a 24 second shot clock. That does not excuse lazy passing, overly flashy passing, getting in the air before a decision is made as to where the ball is going, and just poor ball-handling inside on entry passes. The good news is that Brandon Childress has great court vision and seems to protect the ball. He needs to get a little tighter with his handle, and should be a good spell for Crawford when he needs a breather, or we go to a three-guard lineup. Crawford continues to push things a bit at times, leading to overly aggressive play and turnovers. I would also like to see less contested three point shots early in the shot clock. Protecting the ball has to improve if this team wants to make the post-season (of any kind)
Very, Very Early Minutes Projection (as I would do it, not necessarily Coach Manning)
PG: Crawford 20 Childress 15 Wilbekin 5
SG: Woods 20 Wilbekin 10 Crawford 10
SF: Arians 20 Woods 10 McClinton 5 Washington 5
PF: Dinos 20 Collins 10 Mitchell 5 Arians 5
C: Collins 20 Moore 15 SJM 5
Crawford - 30
Collins - 30
Woods - 30
Arians - 25
Dinos - 20
McClinton - 5
Mitchell - 5
SJM - 5
I'm sure many people disagree with my breakdown of minutes, so I would love to hear what other people saw this week and expect moving forward.