Most exhibition games between Division I teams and lower level foes are not very exciting affairs. They are usually simple tune-up games to get some live action before jumping into the non-conference portion of the basketball schedule.
For example, take last year’s matchup for Wake Forest against Piedmont International where the Deacs were up 63-25 at the half and cruised to a 118-48 victory.
This year will be slightly different because when Queens University of Charlotte enters the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem on Friday night it will fully expect to be in the game at the end.
Every team says that when they come into these games, but in this case I tend to believe that the Royals can compete with Wake Forest.
Head coach Bart Lundy is in his fifth season at Queens and is in his second stint with the Royals.
This is the second time this season in revenue sports Wake Forest will face a coach who is in his second stint with a team for a season-opener (Presbyterian in football).
Overall Lundy is 200-77 (72%) with the Royals and led it to an Elite Eight appearance in 2002 and a Final Four appearance in 2003. In his ten years, Queens has gone to two Elite Eight appearances, a Final Four, five NCAA D-II appearances, and two conference tournament titles.
Coming into this season Queens is ranked No. 2 in the nation in the pre-season Division II polls, and is fresh off of a 30-4 season that saw a Sweet 16 appearance. The Royals return 10 letter winners and 4 starters from last year and should be even better this year.
While some may think that doesn’t translate to the Division I level, we can go ask Virginia Commonwealth, who witnessed firsthand what a good Division II team can do when it lost to Queens 75-73 last year.
This is the same VCU team that went 26-9 last year, finished top 50 in KenPom, and made the NCAA Tournament. Wake Forest is ranked 57th in KenPom’s preseason rankings (VCU was 33rd in last year’s when they took the loss on it’s home court).
The Royals are led by Division-II Preseason All-American member Jalin Alexander. Alexander is a 6-3, 205 pound guard out of Newberry, SC, and was a First-Team All-Conference selection last year and also a D-II CAA Second Team selection.
He averaged 13.3 PPG and 2.8 RPG while shooting 42% from behind the three-point line.
This will provide an excellent matchup for the Wake Forest backcourt defensively to get ready for the regular season, and more specifically, point guard Tookie Brown for Georgia Southern, who the Deacs will face next Friday night in it’s season opener.
One problem the Royals may have on Friday is a severe height disadvantage, as the tallest player is junior F/C DeVarte Watson at 6-9. There are several players in the 6-5 to 6-7 range, but it puts immense pressure on 6-8 Todd Withers, who led the team in rebounding last year with 7 per game to limit the litany of 6-10 to 7 foot players the Demon Deacons have.
On the flip side, this is a great chance for junior center Doral Moore to come out and have an immediate impact on the game. He reportedly has 13 points and 10 rebounds in the “secret” scrimmage against Maryland on Saturday, so I fully expect that he will continue to grab boards and dominate inside against any Queens players.
The last time Queens took on an ACC foe in an exhibition it lost to N.C. State back in 2014 by a score of 78-47.
In the end I expect Wake Forest to go ahead and win this game, but I would not be surprised at all if this game is a lot closer than people attending the game will think it should be.
This is simply an article letting BSD readers know that this is a reasonable test for the Deacs and it’s not the end of the season if it’s a close game.
It’s a great chance to prepare the team for what it will face over the first few weeks of the season and I am excited to see what the Deacs can do against a team that is highly regarded at the Division II level.