What will it take for Wake Forest to make it to the Final Four in Detroit? Who do they want to play and whom would they really not want to see in their bracket?
On most nights, Wake can handle any team that’s willing to run up and down the floor, and tries to play them in a man-to-man defense. They proved this when they beat Carolina and Duke when the two were ranked No. 1 in the country. They also beat the vaunted Clemson press twice in the regular season.
Individually they are really young, but really special. Jeff Teague (sophomore), James Johnson (sophomore), and Al Farouq Aminu (freshman) would all be considered top 20 NBA picks were they to decide to go pro this year. They also have a first team All-ACC defensive player in L.D. Williams and three seven-footers they can rotate into the lane.
With this lineup you would think they should be unbeatable—and they are when they focus, play hard, and play as a team. Unfortunately they have slept through several games this year against lesser opponents and lost games they should have won with a half-decent effort.
They have five losses this season, all but one to lower ranked teams. All were because the Deacons just did not seem interested and did not give 100 percent until it was too late in the game.
So what teams do they fear and whom do they want to avoid? The obvious answers are the dominant teams like Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and Oklahoma. They scare everybody.
For the Deacons, teams that specialize in a zone—like Syracuse—are a real problem. With Wake’s talent, the Baby Deacons want to go one-on-one every time down the floor, and a well-synchronized zone defense is a problem.
Low scoring motion teams—like Illinois—are also a problem for the Deacons. With their free wheeling style, Wake wants games in the 80s and 90s. For them, the more possessions the better, and they tend to get bored or lazy when other teams get methodical.
The final danger is Wake’s own tendency to relax against mediocre teams and not give their best effort. Wake could easily be beaten in an early round if they don’t pay attention and take care of business.
Hopefully, their experience of what happens when they don’t play their best will see them through to the Elite Eight—or maybe even the Final Four.