A good team on paper, Wake Forest has been anything but on the court during the lead up to the Paradise Jam in Lynchburg, Va., where it will play Drake on Friday in the opening round. The Demon Deacons have started 0-2 for the first time since 1979 and won’t be getting any sympathy from the Bulldogs, who themselves are starved for wins.
All the things that can cause a basketball team to lose - poor shooting, poor defense, turnovers and lack of rebounding - are afflicting the Demon Deacons, who are staring at their first 0-3 start in 50 years. In its most recent loss to Liberty, the host of the Paradise Jam, Wake Forest made 2-of-17 3-point attempts and finished with nine assists. “They wanted it more than we did, from the beginning of the game until the end of the game,” junior Keyshawn Woods told the media. “We all, collectively, do not have a want to rebound. We don’t have a want to play defense, and that’s our issue. We have to fix it.” The Bulldogs, who won seven games in each of the last two seasons and haven’t had a winning campaign since 2011-12, would love nothing more than to send Wake Forest to the wrong side of the bracket.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, No TV
ABOUT DRAKE (1-0): Niko Medved has an experienced team to work with in his first year as a head coach as the Bulldogs have five seniors and a handful of juniors. Graham Woodward, Reed Timmer, C.J. Rivers, Ore Arogundade and De‘Antae McMurray led the way as the Bulldogs snapped a 10-game losing streak dating back to last season with a 46-point win over Division III Coe College. Medved was thrilled with the job done by freshman Noah Thomas, a 6-2 guard from Australia, who registered 13 points and six steals in his debut.
ABOUT WAKE FOREST (0-2): Coach Danny Manning had to figure that life after John Collins, who led the Demon Deacons with 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last season, was going to be difficult to start, but certainly not this difficult. Woods and Bryant Crawford are trying do their part as are Chaundee Brown, Terrence Thompson and Doral Moore, but Brandon Childress and Mitchell Wilbekin, returnees from last season’s NCAA Tournament team, have struggled. Childress is 2-of-13 from the field with 10 assists and nine turnovers and Wilbekin is 1-of-14 from the field and 1-of-8 from the 3-point line, where he shot 40.5 percent last season.
1. Prior to taking over at Drake, Medved led a resurgence at Furman, where he won 42 games in his last two seasons after winning a total of 20 in his first two campaigns.
2. Brown became the first Wake Forest freshman since J.T. Terrell in 2011 to have a 20-point game in his debut when he notched 21 points and nine rebounds in the season opening loss to Georgia Southern.
3. The winner plays Quinnipiac or Colorado in Saturday’s semifinals.
PREDICTION: Wake Forest 82, Drake 80