The annual Ken Pomeroy rankings came out last week and according to this database, Wake Forest will in fact play another season of college basketball. I just realized yesterday that the start of the regular season is a mere two weeks away when Wake Forest heads to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College on Wednesday, November 6th.
This is the start of the ACC’s 20 game in-conference schedule, and with the unveiling of the ACC Network (which is STILL NOT available on Xfinity/Comcast) a couple of months ago, every team will start off with a conference game, sans Duke, who takes on Kansas on Tuesday, November 5th.
Prior to KenPom releasing the rankings there had been some discussion on my group texts about where the Deacs would rank to start the season. Most of the folks that I chatted with believed it would be in the 120-150 range since the Deacs finished 174th in the final ranking last season (after starting the season 94th).
Imagine our shock when we saw that the Deacs are actually projected as the 80th ranked team in Mr. Pomeroy’s rankings!!!
Here is a look at what Wake has done in the prior five seasons in the rankings under Danny Manning over the course of the season
2019 – 94th to 174th
2018 – 57th to 89th
2017 – 76th to 36th (thank you John Collins)
2016 – 59th to 118th
2015 – 104th to 120th
From my article back in 2017, here is a brief refresher on how KenPom’s pre-season rankings work/what is weighted:
For those unfamiliar with the rankings, they are tempo-free rankings based on the four factors of basketball: effective field goal percentage, turnover rate, rebounding rate, and free throw rate.
There is a bit of guesswork in the model as it projects certain freshmen, transfers, and injured players with Division I experience as contributing to each team.
The top 30 freshmen or so have an impact on a team’s rating, but beyond that the system basically does not count freshmen because historically, as a whole, those freshmen do not usually result in average to above average players. There are obviously exceptions to this since it is a large model, but usually works out well.
Overall the Deacs are projected to finish 12-16 overall, and 7-13 in ACC play. This is pretty much aligned with what I have thought about the season, and came as no big surprise.
The good news is that there is a logjam of teams that are expected to win 7-9 games in-conference this year (seven to be exact), and seven teams overall that are ranked 50th or worse in the initial rankings. The Deacs are the second-worst team, ahead of only Boston College’s 119th ranking.
Wake Forest is coming off back-to-back 11-20 campaigns, and have gone 65-93 (22-59) in the ACC under Danny Manning, who was invited back for at least one more year.
Barring something spectacular happening this will almost certainly be Manning’s last season at the helm of the Wake Forest basketball program. My expectation would be that it is NCAA Tournament or bust, which, given Wake’s proud basketball history is something that we should not have to hope for as a fan base in year six under a head coach.
Given the success of nearly every other sport on campus, the new facilities that have been built, a new AD in John Currie, and the incredible mental gymnastics that are required on a daily basis to defend the ineptitude of the Wake Forest basketball program over the past ten years, I would fully expect a swift move to be made with another sub-par season (or even one that ends with an NIT berth).
Focusing on this season for a minute, the Deacs are actually a one point favorite over BC to open the season (POUND THE EAGLES). I also had quite the eye-opening experience when I realized that Jim Christian is somehow also still the head coach of Boston College. There is a chance that this might be the worst ACC head coaching match up record-wise for two head coaches who have at least 50 games under their belt (Christian is 52-100 in five seasons at BC, so the two are a combined 117-193 in ten cumulative seasons).
After a fairly “easy” slate to begin October/November, the Deacs are favored in just five more games for the rest of the season. While the combined win expectancy of those final 22 games is certainly over 5 wins, it does point out how dire the straits are in Winston-Salem.
I don’t mean to come off as overly negative because honestly apathy is the primary feeling I have about this basketball season, which is the worst thing that can happen to fan base.
I hope the team comes out and surprises me and then mocks me as we make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but based on the reality of the situation and the evidence that we have thus far, I do not believe that will be the case.