The Wake Forest Demon Deacons come to Littlejohn Saturday at 4 p.m. and Martin Rickman from SB Nation's Wake Forest site, Blogger So Dear, has us covered on the Deacs in this scouting report. After a long season, Rickman is a bit frustrated with new Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik…
Us: It's been a rocky season to say the least for the Deacs (8-20, 1-12 ACC) and new coach Jeff Bzdelik - can what's gone wrong be summed up in a couple sentences?
Rickman: Wow. A couple sentences? Okay, I'll do my best: The team is extremely young, extremely thin and has not meshed well with whatever "system" it is that Coach Bzdelik has tried to install on offense and defense. They have talent, and that has been seen in spurts, but there is a completely lack of consistency on both ends of the floor, and an inability to stay competitive for an entire 40 minute stretch. That work?
Us: What are the staples of Bzdelik's system on offense and defense - and how is it different from the coach he replaced?
Rickman: Defensively, I have no freaking idea. Coach Bzdelik has never been a good defensive coach throughout his career. And the only system I see there is "let the other team get in the lane whenever they want and shoot wide open threes." Yeah, sometimes they're getting hands up, but there's no close-outs, no help D, no crashing the boards, no cutting off at the baseline, really not much of anything.
On offense there's the "complicated system" that we heard about coming in. It involves a lot of cuts and spacing, and it's there...sometimes. But I still think it was the wrong call to try and install this with such a young team. That's my opinion, and not necessarily a matter of right or wrong in general I guess, but I still see players thinking instead of acting, and that is causing tentativeness, as well as mental mistakes for prolonged periods of time, which is why you'll see Wake go 5+ minutes without a FG in two out of every three games.
Us: Two freshman lead the way statistically for Wake Forest in forward Travis McKie (12.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG) and guard J.T. Terrell (11.6 PPG) - how are they playing coming into this one? Any other players for Tiger fans to watch out for coming in?
Rickman: McKie is terrific. He's been one of the ACC's two or three best freshmen this year. He can play inside and out, is able to body up on his man defensively (although he did have a rough game against VT) and is generally a smart player. JT is an enigma. He has the ability to go off at any given time, but he goes through a period of two great plays, two horrible plays and so on. He seems to be playing a lot more under control lately, but the key word is "seems," as his stats haven't exactly shown that on paper.
Who else to watch for? I dunno. Gary Clark hits a good percentage of his threes, but has been largely ineffective in ACC play. Ari Stewart has been up-and-down. I'd say watch out for CJ Harris. He's probably the third guy Clemson needs to make sure they key on defensively.
Wake Forest Scouting Report
Clark a sharp-shooter on 3-pointers
Us: Here in late February, we have the first matchup between new coaches Bzdelik and Brad Brownell - what are your impressions of Clemson in '10-11?
Rickman: Love Brownell. It's funny, at the time, I thought Wake would pull a completely different guy, so when Brownell's name was brought up, I actually wrote about the "case for Brad Brownell," who I knew a lot about from his days at UNC-W and my following of the Horizon League when he was at Wright State. I loved his youth, his passion for recruiting, his willingness to change his system based on his personnel and his overall demeanor...not to mention his track record. I just thought Wake could get someone more exciting.
In retrospect, I'd love to have Brownell. I really would. He's a great coach, and it's just going to take a little time. I think the fact that you guys can get to 20 wins is a real testament to that. If there are any of your fans frustrated, take a look around, the ACC is having trouble everywhere and you guys are still top-70 in the RPI after losing one of the ACC's best players in Booker. Brownell is up to the challenge in the ACC and there's nowhere to go, but up. Plus this area is in his wheelhouse, recruiting-wise.
Us: What are the keys to the Deacs pulling off their first road win of season at Littlejohn?
Rickman: Pray? I don't know. Shoot 50%, hold Clemson to 40% shooting, turn it over fewer than 15 times and win the rebounding battle. Let's start there. I don't see Wake losing this game by fewer than 15 points, so it's hard for me to even think about the phrase "pulling off their first road win" right now.