After three rough seasons, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons should be an improved team. The problem is, with the new additions to the conference, they may not even improve in the ACC conference standings. Jeff Bzdelik's club only loses one starter, albeit an important one, and should have more options all over the court. If Bzdelik is to keep his job past this season, he will have to make a postseason tournament to quiet the fan base. The sophomore-laden roster will need to grow in a big way to save their head coach.
The point guard position will be manned by two sophomores who began to grow as their freshmen seasons went on. Codi Miller-McIntyre started almost every game last season and played reasonably well. However, he has to improve his perimeter shooting (32.3%) and free throws (56.5%). Miller-McIntyre started losing a bit of time to classmate Madison Jones, and that trend may continue into this year. Jones, like CMM, struggles with his jumpshot, but is strong in most other categories.
The Deacs will have to replace the very productive C.J. Harris after he graduated. Coron Williams, a graduate transfer from Robert Morris, looks to be the sure starter at the shooting guard spot. Williams is a tremendous shooter from three-point range, averaging over 40% during his time at RMU. A constant threat from the outside was a big hole in last year's rotation. Freshman Miles Overton will be the primary backup at the position along with a few small forwards when Bzdelik opts for a bigger rotation.
The young Demon Deacons are deepest and most talented in this area. Senior Travis McKie will start for his 4th year in a row after averaging 13.5 points and 7 rebounds per game. His scoring regressed, but McKie saw slight improvements in steals, blocks, assists, and free throw percentage. The other sure starter in the post will be sophomore Devin Thomas. At 6'9" 240 lbs, Thomas is a fantastic rebounder (7.5 per game) and a developing scoring threat down low (9.1 ppg). If he makes the typical sophomore leap, it is not out of the question that Thomas averages a double-double.
The last remaining starting spot is up for grabs. Sophomore Arnaud Adala Moto would seem to make the most sense. Moto brings size to the small forward position (6'6" 225 lbs), and is more of an interior-oriented player. In his 31 games (19 starts), Moto averaged 5.6 points and an impressive 3.9 rebounds. Tyler Cavanaugh may see some starts, he had 5 as a freshman, and is an interior scoring threat but must increase his 31.8 field goal percentage. Options off the bench include Aaron Rountree, Andre Washington, and Greg McClinton. Rountree is a skinny combo forward who averaged 10.9 minutes as a freshman and will look to increase that this year. Washington is the lone 7-footer on the roster, but saw very limited minutes as a freshman. McClinton is an athletic wing, but is recovering from a knee injury suffered last year in high school.
Wake will challenge themselves in the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Demon Deacons have a road trip to Xavier as well as the very challenging Battle 4 Atlantis. The field includes Kansas (first round opponent), USC, Villanova, Iowa, Tennessee, UTEP, and Xavier. In conference play, Wake Forest will play Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, and NC State twice each.
The Demon Deacons will be an improved team, but it will not show in the final record. If most of the sophomores make a big jump, the Deacs could make the postseason. However, that is a tall task with the youth. Bzdelik will need to do his best coaching job yet to secure his post in Winston-Salem. The Deacs' ceiling is the NIT, but most likely they will fall just short. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse joining the conference does not time well with Wake's development and could prevent them from an otherwise successful season.
While Travis McKie can fill a box score which the best of them, Devin Thomas looks like he may be the player with the most fantasy potential. Thomas may approach double-double territory with a nice increase in scoring. Throw in the typical growth for a sophomore and his importance to the team, and you have a potential breakout player.