Wake Forest will look to get its season off on the right foot today when it takes on the North Carolina A&T Aggies in Winston-Salem at 2 PM today.
The Aggies are 0-1 with a close loss on Tuesday at home to the UNC-G Spartans, an NCAA Tournament team last season. I was actually planning on watching that game, but couldn’t find it on anywhere.
The game will air on the ACC Network/Watch ESPN.
Today is the first regular season game for a litany of Wake Forest players, who return just three scholarship players from last year’s 11-20 campaign. Probably the best addition is freshman forward Jaylen Hoard, the 19th best freshman in the nation according to the cumulative RSCI rankings.
Joining Hoard are freshmen Isaiah Mucius, Sharone Wright, Jr., Michael Wynn, Jamie Lewis (who was declared eligible again yesterday), and transfers Ikenna Smart (Buffalo), and Torry Johnson (Northern Arizona).
Despite A&T’s 74-66 close loss to UNC-G on Tuesday, I do not expect this one to be very close. Jay Joyner’s squad is coming off of a 20-15 season, a far cry from the 3-29 year in 2016-17.
The Aggies have not defeated a team ranked in the top-200 in KenPom since December 5th, 2014 (Wright State).
In a similar vein to Wake Forest, the Aggies have 11 new faces on its roster, and the three best players from last year in Femi Olujobi, Davaris McGowens, and Denzel Keyes have all moved on (two to graduation and Olujobi to Depaul).
I would expect Hoard and Sarr to be the focal point of the offense for the Deacs, and it will be an interesting juxtaposition when they go up against three graduate transfers inside for the Aggies.
One thing to watch out for though may be the three-point shooting, where the Aggies went 9-18 against the Spartans. Last year the team shot 30% from behind-the-arc, so it’s unclear if the Aggies have turned a new leaf or if this is just a statistical oddity from one game.
Head coach Jay Joyner doesn’t like to push the tempo, while I think Wake will try to get out in transition, which could present a contrast in styles
Overall I think Wake Forest simply has too much talent for the Aggies to keep up with. At 345th in the nation (out of 353 teams), this is the worst team the Deacs have played ranking-wise since the season-opener in 2015-2016 against UMBC (334th, won 78-73).
I would expect Hoard to have a pretty big day, and also think sophomore Chaundee Brown will be able to impose his will as well en route to an 86-59 season opening victory for the Deacs.