Well, here we are again. Yesterday was ACC Media Day for the upcoming basketball season, which means that our first game is less than a month away. Now I know everyone is still busy focusing on football, and for good reason, but I just wanted to throw out a little teaser to slowly ease you back into basketball. So without further adieu, here are five questions I have for the upcoming Wake Forest basketball season.
What impact will Andrien White have?
This is probably the biggest question I have going into the season. I did not see White play during his time with the Niners, so I am very interested in what he can bring to the team. From his stats, I can see that over half of his shots in Charlotte came from beyond the arc, and that he is a career 38% 3-point shooter. That, frankly, is a breath of fresh air, as the Deacs were one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the whole nation last season (329th out of 351 to be exact). More importantly, however, is that his career defensive rating of 106.3 would have been the 2nd best on the team last season behind only Anthony Bilas. A guard who can keep their man in front of them on defense would have a massive impact on improving the defense as a whole. It will be interesting to see how White fits in on a rotation that was already pretty guard heavy a season ago.
Can the defense actually improve?
You may have heard this one before. Every year it seems like we’re told the defense has made improvements, and every year it’s just as bad as it was the year before, if not worse. This year, however, the Deacs have added assistant coach Rex Walters, who appears to have been an integral part in improving the defense of the Detroit Pistons in 2017-18 and the Nevada Wolf Pack in 2018-19. Nevada improved from 105th in Kenpom’s adjusted defense to 35th in the 1 year Rex Walters spent with the Wolf Pack. Was that a coincidence, or does Walters actually have the ability to fix a sub par defense? The Deacs were 186th in adjusted defense last season, so we will have to wait and see where they end up this year. Here’s hoping Stan Van Gundy taught Walters the secret to forming that freaking wall.
Who will step up down low?
Again, you have heard this before. The Deacs struggled mightily on both ends of the court down low last season; both our 2p% and our 2p% defense were among the worst in the nation (347 and 337 respectively). Add to that Jaylen Hoard leaving for the NBA draft, and the Deacs are now without their leading rebounder (7.6 rpg) and front court scoring threat (13.1 ppg) from last season. To make matters worse, with the departure of Ikenna Smart, the Deacs now have only 1 player over 6-9 in Olivier Sarr. Between Sarr, Sunday Okeke, and freshman Tariq Ingraham, someone is going to have to step up and control the paint, or it will be another long year for the Deacs.
Will we see any changes on offense?
I don’t need to remind anyone that the Wake Forest offense was pretty anemic last season. Ball movement and player movement were basically non-existent, which led to one of the worst shooting percentages in the nation at 39.4% and the 16th worst assist numbers in the whole country with just 10.6 assists per game. With no inside threat on offense (see question #3) and the 3-point line moving back to 22 feet, 1.75 inches, will the Deacs be forced to live off of contested midrange jump shots for another season? Will we see an attempt to move the ball and get guys open shots, or more “just have to make shots” excuses when the offense fails to score?
What effect will the new ACC schedule have?
The ACC has gone to a 20 game schedule starting this season, meaning that the Deacs will have to play tougher competition sooner and more often. The Deacs start the season without so much as a tune up game on the road against the Boston College Eagles. The new schedule will certainly make things much harder, but it also gives Wake Forest more chances to prove what they can do against the best basketball conference in the nation. A Russian proverb says, “The hammer that shatters glass also forges steel.” Will the Deacs become glass or steel?
Those are the big questions I have for the 2019-20 basketball season. Feel free to leave a comment with questions you have, and then get back to focusing on football.