Tonight at 7 pm, Georgia Tech is going to be looking for it's third conference win of the season against a struggling Wake Forest team. I talked to the Wake Forest Blog Blogger So Dear's Griffin Kurzius about how the Demon Deacons have fared this season and what to expect in the upcoming game.
Q: Wake Forest, with the exception of Devin Thomas, is an extremely young team. Has the lack of experience held the team back this year?
A: It’s funny because early in the season, following big wins over Indiana, UCLA and LSU (the first two without our returning top scorer Codi Miller-McIntyre), the Demon Deacon youth played with fire, intensity and ice cold veins. For the first two months, Wake went 5-0 in five point games. In reality, those close games caught up with us and now the team has lost some heartbreakers versus Virginia and Virginia Tech. Right now, even with seniors Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas, the team has no flow on offense and one of the worst defenses in the NCAA. They lost their moxie, per se, and don’t put forth the effort on both ends of the court. I don’t think that fans would chalk this up as immaturity or youth, but the players just don’t mesh on either end of the floor.
Q: Danny Manning came in with high expectations following the disastrous Jeff Bzdelik era, although he has yet to produce many wins. What is the fans feeling toward Manning? Are they happy with his job so far, or do they think the Deacons could have won more games starting this year?
A: This is a great question that has vacillated this season, and rather quickly. Obviously, Bzdelik was one of the worst coaching hires in all the NCAA in the past 10 years and put a program that reached the NCAA Tournament in 18 of 20 years in the midst of a six year postseason slump- and counting. After *He Who Must Not Be Named*, Danny Manning’s pedigree as a college stud, NBA All-Star and a player-developer at Kansas gave the fans much-needed hope. Last season, an undermanned Demon Deacon team showed grit and fight and outperformed their expectations and showed an ability to test with the big boys like Duke and Louisville. This season, with veteran leadership and a great recruiting class, Wake fans were cautiously optimistic about an NIT or NCAA low-seed bid (yet still guarded and scarred from Bzdelik’s past).
To get to the point, the fans were elated after the early season wins mentioned above. However, eight straight losses in the ACC has thrown disgruntled fans back into the gutter. The players display zero confidence on the floor and his defense schemes has produced one of the worst defenses in the nation. Early in the season, everybody thought Manning could bring back Wake to the glory days of Skip Prosser and Dave Odom. However, is a growing faction of frustrated, anxious fans that don’t think Manning is the MANN for the job.
Q: What player on the Wake Forest team should Georgia Tech fans look out for, other than the stars. Is there anybody who could make a real difference this game from the bench?
A: I’m going to say John Collins. He is a springy, 6-10 freshman who will make a play a game that amazes. He makes his share of first year mistakes but he gets up and down the floor like a guard and gets high above the rim. The Florida-native will give Charles Mitchell a run for his money on the boards and keep him off balance due to his agility. Some games, he rides the bench, but when he’s at his best, he gives the Demon Deacons an automatic spark on both ends of the floor. Collins is a big part of Wake’s future and is occasionally presence in the present.
Q: Like Georgia Tech, Wake Forest plays with a very deep bench. Is this a philosophy of Manning? Is a lack of talent forcing Manning to play matchups and try to find the hot hand? Do the starters get in much foul trouble causing the bench to play a big role?
A: Think of it this way: Danny Manning has a lot of decent toys and depending on what the weather is, or what his friends are doing next door, he uses different toys. Part of this is because Wake has about 10-11 players of commensurate ability. Another reason is because players provide a different match-up or skill-set but are unplayable against certain lineups. For example, Dinos Mitoglou is the definition of a stretch-4 and keeps smaller or slower teams off balance due to his size and quick release. However, he gets man-handled on the other end of the floor when teams pound the ball into the paint. While this is the most egregious example, this carries over to Rondale Watson, Doral Moore and Collins. Put them in early and ride their hot hand or sit them down quickly.
Q: After 8 straight losses, this Wake Forest team must be itching for a win and Georgia Tech looks like one of the easiest games remaining. What is your prediction for this game? Do the Demon Deacons break out of their slump?
A: Wake has won 3 ACC road games in the past 5+ seasons. The team lost all its early-season momentum and looks dazed and apathetic. As you mentioned, Georgia Tech has handled the Demon Deacons at home in recent memory. I hate to be pessimistic but this is where Wake basketball is right now. This is easy money guys… Georgia Tech 85 Wake Forest 74