Today is the first day of individual workouts in college basketball, marking the season as officially started for Wake Forest:
Today is our first day of individual workouts! The season will be here before we know it! #GoDeacs— Danny Manning (@CoachDManning) September 5, 2017
Here are the five biggest questions heading into the season for Wake Forest basketball as I see them from a personnel standpoint:
1. Who can replace the productivity of John Collins?
This is one of the biggest questions heading into the 2017-18 season. John Collins was not only a First Round draft pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but also an extremely high usage player who took care of the bulk of scoring and rebounding for the Deacs last year. A soft out-of-conference schedule gives the Demon Deacons some time to figure this out. The obvious answer is that nobody will take care of it alone, but instead with a more balanced scoring approach. I do think that Bryant Crawford has the potential to take a huge step this season and increase his scoring load, but ultimately the scoring will be shared by everybody on the team. The rebounding will be through graduate transfer Terrence Thompson and by committee at the center position. Freshman phenom Chaundee Brown will also likely chip in his fair share of boards as well.
2. Who will wind up starting at the center position?
The starting center for this year’s team is also up for grabs, as junior Doral Moore and sophomore Sam Japhet-Mathias will vie for the spot. Freshman Olivier Sarr could also be a seen as a dark horse for the job, but will likely take a backseat to one of Moore or SJM. There has been some chatter around the program that Moore looks like a completely different player from last year, which would be very welcome news. This would make sense given what the staff has shown they can do with big men. I think Moore will start, but the 40 minutes will be allocated between the three with whoever can stay out of foul trouble getting the majority of the minutes.
3. How good can Chaundee Brown be as a freshman?
The answer to this is “very good”. He has been ranked as a top 3 impact freshman in the ACC for this year by multiple websites, and were it not for the late commitment of Marvin Bagley III to Duke, could have been number one. He will immediately start at the SF spot and provide a dimension that Wake Forest has not had in quite some time. The top 30 nationally ranked Brown has a chance to lead the team in scoring from day one and help push Wake Forest even closer to the national stage spotlight.
4. Will Terrence Thompson help enough in the rebounding category?
The latest addition to Wake Forest for this year very well could be the most important, as the Marshall post-grad transfer will likely start at the PF spot for the Deacs this year. He is a 6-7 player averaged 9 points and 6.5 rebounds per year last year, and he excels at rebounding and also running the court for easy baskets. He fills the lane very well and will be looked at (affectionately) as a “garbage man” for Wake. While I don’t expect anything near the 16% ORB, and 25% DRB that Collins put up last year, if he can carry over his 10% ORB and 19% DRB numbers from Marshall it would go a very long way in helping a glaring weakness for Wake.
5. Will the defense improve enough to the point to offset the likely drop in offense?
You could argue that this may be the most important question if you want to know how successful Wake Forest can be this year. The Deacs had one of the best offenses in school history last year (ranking 7th in offensive efficiency nationally), but came in at a woeful 176th on defense. This is absolutely inexcusable and the opening round game of the NCAA Tournament against Kansas State was probably the best example of what can go wrong when you play no defense. Given the Deacs lose their “do everything” guy in Collins there will likely be a drop-off in offense from 7th nationally. I believe that with the addition of Brown and Thompson to the starting lineup Wake will be much better defensively than last year. Now there is a long way to go to get back to even a respectable ACC defensive ranking, but the length and quickness that those two bring correlates extremely well with improving defense.