Wake Forest Basketball: The Roller Coaster Ride

Scott McGrathCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2009

This season has been a rejuvenation for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Dino Gaudio is in his second season after the sudden passing of former head coach Skip Prosser.

After a rough first season with a very young team, Wake Forest landed one of the top recruiting classes in the country, signing freshmen Tony Woods and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Following a quick 16-0 start by the Demon Deacons, the season was looking great for them.  Jeff Teague and James Johnson (pictured above) were blossoming into stars after decent freshman seasons.

Aminu lived up to the hype that he came into the season with and L.D. Williams provided the defensive spark that the Deacons have been lacking at some points. However, this season has been filled with the good and the bad.

The season started, as stated, with a hot run with great wins against Baylor, UTEP, and BYU on the road. Teague's scoring doubled from last year's pace, and the offense was firing in comparison with the past.

The Deacons fast pace style of play led to a high-flying offense getting many of their points on fast breaks or by pressuring the other team's defense by setting up quickly.

But, this fast paced play has come back to hurt them.  Although Wake Forest has a great defense, statistics will not prove that. The quick style allows for many possessions, but not only for them.

Opposing teams shoot more often than they would in a more balanced tempo, and the games can get quite high scoring. When Wake Forest struggles and loses by a large margin, it is because of their offense not converting, not the defense.

After three big wins to start ACC conference play against North Carolina, Boston College, and Clemson, the Deacons have fallen off.

A tough first loss against Virginia Tech led to the slump that Wake has been on ever since. They have lost to teams that, on paper, they should beat easily, and beat the strong teams in the conference convincingly such as Duke, Florida State, and Boston College (for the second time).

Ever since Teague started to have a breakout season in scoring, his numbers have gone down, mainly from the tighter defense being put onto him. But, this has led to the development of a new star for the Demon Deacons: James Johnson.

Johnson's numbers have been good throughout the season, but he has been overshadowed because of Teague's stellar play. However, in the past three games, Johnson has put up double-doubles and has opened up the court for Teague again.

The main problem for the Deacons this season is inexperience. Having an extremely young team with only three seniors (and only Harvey Hale gets considerable minutes), the team is still adjusting. 

Against some opponents, Wake Forest looks like they should be a No. 1 seed in the tourney. In others, there are flashbacks of last season's disappointment.

Wake Forest seems to play to the level of their opponent by beating the great teams and losing to "lesser" teams. This could pose a huge problem for a potential NCAA tournament run.

For Wake Forest, the first two rounds against potential "unknown," smaller conference schools may pose the biggest threat.  If they can avoid getting upset in the first two rounds, the Deacons have a great chance of going deep into the tournament.

There is no doubt that Wake Forest has the talent to be one of the best teams in the country. However, the Deacons must quickly revert back to their form from the beginning of conference play and once again play like one of the elite teams in college basketball.