Wake Forest goes small, hoping for even bigger results
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Wake Forest hopes a small lineup will lead to even bigger things.
The Demon Deacons took care of several of their goals a year ago, pulling a few significant upsets and earning their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010 behind a big man who blossomed into a star as the season progressed.
Now that John Collins is off to the NBA, it’s clear that the direction of coach Danny Manning’s fourth season will be determined by one of the best collections of guards in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
With third-year starter Bryant Crawford, senior Mitchell Wilbekin, Charlotte transfer Keyshawn Woods and sophomore Brandon Childress — plus highly touted freshman swingman Chaundee Brown — the Demon Deacons will be deep in the backcourt. The four returners combined to average 42.3 points last season.
“Those four guards are the guys that have to lead the way for us this year,” Manning said. “It’s not always in points or assists, but their leadership.”
Manning said his players “got a taste” of success last year by making the tournament, and moving forward, “we’ve got to want more than a taste.” The Demon Deacons, sparked by a home upset of Louisville, made the field of 68 but were knocked out by Kansas State in a play-in game.
“We took a step last year. We’re happy, we’re proud that we’re moving in the right direction, but we’ve got to continue to take steps,” Manning said. “And that’s our mindset every day in practice. ... That helped us out in the recruiting game as well, but we have to continue to work and move forward.”
Some things to know about the 2017-18 Wake Forest Demon Deacons:
REPLACING COLLINS: The biggest hole was left by Collins, whose early departure for the NBA seemed inevitable after he reeled off 12 consecutive 20-point games late last season. Freshman Olivier Sarr and another 7-footer, junior Doral Moore, appear to be the obvious candidates to replace Collins, drafted by Atlanta in the first round. “I don’t really feel any pressure,” Moore said. “I feel like it’s a great opportunity for myself and my team to grow and get better.”
NO GREEK DEAC: Wake Forest also lost Dinos Mitoglou, a sweet-shooting forward who opted to skip his senior season and play professionally in his native Greece. To fill that hole, Manning signed Terrence Thompson, a graduate transfer from Marshall.
CRAW DADDY: Crawford is the man who makes the Demon Deacons go. The aggressive guard with no fear of driving the lane hit a long 3-pointer in the final seconds to beat UNC Greensboro last December. “We put the ball in BC’s hands from Day 1, and we’ve been rocking with him ever since, and we’re going to continue to do so,” Manning said.
DEFENSELESS: The Demon Deacons have to find a way to play better defense. They allowed at least 90 points in six games, all losses, and were simply outscored in an otherwise winnable 99-94 loss at Duke in February.
SCHEDULE PEEK: In a scheduling quirk, Wake Forest won’t leave the North Carolina-South Carolina-Virginia region until its trip to Boston College on Jan. 6. In addition to playing seven nonconference home games, the Demon Deacons visit Charlotte and Coastal Carolina, and their three-game trip to the Paradise Jam was relocated from the Virgin Islands to Liberty’s campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, due to hurricanes Irma and Maria.
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