Season Preview: Wake Forest
Last Season: 19-14, NCAA First Four
Key Losses: John Collins, Austin Arians
Key Additions: Chaundee Brown, Melo Eggleston, Olivier Sarr
Led by the ACC’s third leading scorer, John Collins, Wake Forest made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. The Demon Deacons snuck in as an 11 seed and were a part of the First Four, where they took on Kansas State. The Wildcats won 95-88, so Wake still hasn’t won a tournament game in seven years, but to even make it to the Big Dance can be considered a success in 2016-17.
However, it will be even tougher for the Deacs to make it back as they lose Collins to the NBA Draft as well as role player Austin Arians. Collins is clearly the bigger loss and he will be heavily missed in Winston-Salem, but there’s also a large concern about who will replace Collins down low. Dinos Mitoglou will likely start at power forward, but that center spot remains unfilled. Doral Moore is a 7’1” junior and undoubtedly has the size to play there, but is not the most skilled. Olivier Sarr is a true freshman from France, and is considered one of the top international players in this year’s recruiting class, but he is still very raw, especially on offense. There is a huge question mark on who will play alongside Mitoglou on the interior, and Coach Danny Manning will have to find an answer to that in the next few months.
Additionally, Bryant Crawford is someone to keep your eye on next season. Crawford came to Wake Forest as a highly sought-after recruit with expectations through the roof. He averaged 14 points per game and 4 assists but also 3.5 turnovers a game, so it was a bit of shaky first year for Crawford. Last season, he improved, averaging 16 points, 5.5 assists, and just 2.3 turnovers per game. But, he can be even better, and will need to be if Wake Forest is to have a successful 2017-18 season. Crawford now becomes the go-to scorer with John Collins gone, and paired with senior Mitchell Wilbekin in the backcourt, it will be crucial that those two point guards by nature work out how to play together. Crawford is extremely athletic, a great ball handler, defender, and can score at all three levels, but he’s yet to come full-circle and play like the first team All-ACC player he can be.
If Bryant Crawford can continue to develop into a real star in the ACC, and someone can step up and take hold of that center position vacated by John Collins, this Wake Forest can end that long drought with an NCAA Tournament win. It’s a bit unrealistic to think this group can make it out of the first weekend, but Coach Manning is slowly rebuilding this program back to its glory days with Chris Paul and Tim Duncan. Wake finished 14th in scoring defense in the ACC last year, so that will need to get shored up, but if it does, don’t sleep on this experienced Wake Forest team in 2017-18.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Mitchell Wilbekin
SG: Bryant Crawford
SF: Chaundee Brown
PF: Dinos Mitoglou
C: Doral Moore