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Danny Manning and Wake Forest are parading through purgatory

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Wake Forest’s decision in the spring to retain Danny Manning didn’t seem grounded in anything basketball-related, but rather a move motivated simply to save money on his buyout. It’s not like the roster was in pristine shape, that there were developing stars ready to right the program overnight. And without that, Manning’s return most likely meant another year of purgatory—we’ve well established what he can and can’t do as a head coach.

The Demon Deacons are coming off back-to-back 11-20 (4-14) seasons, and their prospects for 2020 aren’t a whole lot better: KenPom projects another losing campaign in the offing. In the meantime, Wake’s recruiting suffers: Manning didn’t sign a single top-100 player in 2019 or 2020. Neither was even a top-40 class.

This is a derelict ship offering no hope for the fan base, as the early results predictably are illustrating: Wake already has lost games to Boston College, Charlotte, Arizona, and Penn State. While the latter two can be forgiven, they offer no signs of an upward trajectory, which should be the barest of minimums for Manning in his sixth season.

Wake Forest Offense

2020 Deacs Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Deacs Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 103.9 (89) 45.7 (278) 19.8 (188) 30.6 (113) 39.0 (59)

Last year’s Wake group was one of the country’s poorest shooting teams, ranking 342nd in effective field goal percentage. That team also turned the ball over at a high rate. Both areas remain problems this season, though to a lesser extent.

It’s mildly amazing how terrible Wake has been inside the arc: 44% (301st) on twos last season, 44.1% (344th) this year. It ain’t like this is a team full of midgets, after all; Wake ranks 124th in average height.

The Deacs have guards who stink at converting on twos, and those guys account for a lot of field goal attempts. That may partly be a fault of Manning’s system—maybe his guards aren’t being put in good spots—but it speaks to those players’ limited skill sets as well.

Worse, the Deacs rely on twos a lot more than most, as over 72% of their field goal attempts have been inside the arc. You won’t find many more teams as three-averse (16, to be exact) as Wake Forest. This figures to severely limit the offense’s ceiling all year.

Starters

Brandon Childress (6’0, 195) — Childress is serving as the primary option, which is far from ideal, considering he’s a career 39.5% shooter inside the arc. And while he has been a reliable three-point shooter for the most part, he’s off to a 12-42 start from three this season.

Andrien White (6’3, 200) — He transferred in from Charlotte and immediately caught the bug causing everybody at Wake to miss a lot of twos—after shooting nearly 52% from two in his last year at Charlotte, he’s hit only 40% as a Deac. He is an excellent outside shooter, however, which gives Wake something it badly needed.

Chaundee Brown (6’5, 220) — Brown’s best skill has been drawing fouls, because he’s money at the free throw line. Take that away and he becomes a really average contributor.

Isaiah Mucius (6’8, 195) — Mucius accounts for far too much offense given that he’s a brick machine. He’s taking 26% of this shots while he’s on the floor, and doing it while shooting 40.6% on twos and 31.2% on threes. Though those percentages are actually improvements on his freshman season.

Olivier Sarr (7’0, 255) — Finally, an emerging talent! Despite a significant increase in workload, Sarr’s two-point accuracy is holding steady at 51%, which by itself is evidence of improvement. He’s also a monster on the glass at both ends and a good shot blocker. His 77% free throw shooting only adds to his value. Shame he doesn’t have a lot of help.

Bench

Ismael Massoud (6’8, 200), Jahcobi Neath (6’3, 200), Torry Johnson (6’3, 175), Ody Oguama (6’9, 205). Massoud has been a capable three-point specialist, and Johnson’s not a bad shooter either, but both are liabilities inside the arc. Oguama only rarely shoots the ball but has been excellent on the defensive glass.

Wake Forest Defense

2020 Deacs Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Deacs Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Defense 95.9 (98) 47.8 (136) 16.1 (321) 21.9 (12) 33.6 (214)

Wake’s defense has been better thanks to improvements in field goal percentage defense and defensive rebounding. But the Deacs aren’t exceptional at forcing misses, and they’ve been a little fortunate that opponents are shooting 30.3% from three. Since they don’t force turnovers, they have to maintain their stellar defensive rebounding in league play or else the bottom could fall out.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by one.

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Author:

Steven Muma

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