We're lucky to have Robert Reinhard joining us to shed some light on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons as we begin the second half of ACC play. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, as Blogger So Dear has some interesting breakdown and news such as this one about Nick Saban pulling a full scholarship offer late in the game and the Deacs trying to nab the recruit.
STS: Wake Forest was impressive early on this season, racking up wins against Indiana, UCLA, Arkansas, and LSU. Since ACC play has started, they've looked like a different team and are currently riding a seven game losing streak. Their only ACC win came against the hapless Wolfpack of NC State. Why the swing in results from non-conference play to ACC play, and more broadly, why does it so often seem that non-conference play has so little correlation with how teams before once conference play begins?
BSD: Well, I think a few things are going on here. Our January schedule was absolutely brutal. Wake's ACC schedule so far (at Louisville, Duke, NC State, at VT, Syracuse, at UNC, at Miami, UVA, and at ND). Also, we were somewhat "lucky" to win those games in non-conference. A lot of those were games decided by a possession or two. They fell our way earlier in the season, but those trends tend to even out over time.
It also seems like our defense has gotten worse and that we are being put in pick-and-roll situations more in ACC play in before. We don't have the personnel to defend that, and teams know that. February has a number of winnable games, and will tell us a lot about the team.
STS: There appeared to be a lot of excitement around the Danny Manning hire. Is that excitement still there? Would you say it is still greater than the buzz around new football coach Dave Clawson, who really seems like he's got the football program building up in the right directions.
BSD: January was a rough month for us. Wake was 9-3 in non-conference play, but went 1-8 in the month of January and now sits at 10-11. Wake played a brutal schedule, but still should have won one or two more games. So excitement is lower at the moment. With Clawson, I think you'll start to see a lot of excitement this spring and headed into the fall. Given the schedule and the progress the team showed last year, I think a lot of fans are expecting bowl game. That would be a good accomplishment for the program, and would show that Clawson is building something positive.
STS: Clemson is 4-2 and Wake Forest is 0-6 against opponents in common, tell me why Clemson fans should worry about this game?
BSD: Well, I think those stats are somewhat misleading. For example, our game against Louisville was at Louisville, while Clemson played them at home. I think Clemson fans should be worried about this game based on Wake Forest has proved to be capable of. Neutral/road wins against Indiana, LSU, and UCLA are impressive, as are close losses to Louisville, Xavier, and Virginia. ACC teams really shouldn't take any road games as a given, and Wake has a player in Devin Thomas who is playing at an all-ACC level.
STS: Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre leaving, will they be better next year. If not, do you start to worry about the potential success this program will have under Danny Manning?
BSD: Wake will hopefully be better next year. The Devin Thomas loss really hurts, but Codi has not been himself this year, and at times he has really hurt us. Our future is about the development of Bryant Crawford, John Collins, and Doral Moore. That's an excellent trio of freshmen to build on. When you consider that we will add Keyshawn Woods (transfer from Charlotte) next year as well as a freshman class that will bring added outside shooting, I think it shows that the program is headed in the right direction. That said, if we do stay where we are or do worse, then there would definitely be a cause for concern.
STS: Clemson played mostly zone defense against Florida State (to negate their size advantage). It was partially successful (it limited them to 1.03 points per possession, but Clemson post-players were in foul trouble and the Tigers lost). Florida State isn't a particularly good three-point shooting team, but Wake Forest relies even less on the three-ball. What's the most effective way Brownell can slow the Deacon's down? How do you see this game playing out?
BSD: Wake turns the ball over a lot, so I think hedging a lot of ball screens and daring Wake Forest to shoot the three can be effective. I would also look to double team Devin Thomas once he gets the ball in the post. You have to be careful with that since he is a good passer, but he also tends to turn it over more than his fair share.
I see Wake winning this one. I admit some bias here, and know that Clemson is actually favored, but I'm going with heart over head. I think Devin Thomas gets it going and Wake knocks down enough jump shots to win.
STS: A big thank you to Robert for helping us preview this matchup. Be sure to check our answers to their questions on Blogger So Dear. The game airs at 8pm on ESPN3 (subject to blackout) and the ACC Network.