ACC Rundown: Wake Forest

The 2009-2010 basketball season is slowly drawing closer. Every Tuesday and Thursday this fall, Crazie Talk will preview each of the twelve ACC teams in order of conference standings – from the bottom up.

Today, we’ll take a look at the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

The Blue Devils will not return to Winston Salem until 2011

The Blue Devils will not return to Winston Salem until 2011.

2008-2009 Record: 24-7 (11-5 in ACC)

Postseason Record: 1-1 in ACC tournament, 0-1 in NCAA tournament (lost to Cleveland State in First Round)

Projected Starting Lineup: Ishmael Smith (Sr.), L.D. Williams (Sr.),  Al-Farouq Aminu (So.), Tony Woods (So.), Chas McFarland (Sr.)

Returning:

[TABLE=32]

Departing:

[TABLE=33]

Incoming:

[TABLE=34]

The Good: The Demon Deacons return preseason All-American and ACC player of the year candidate Al-Farouq Aminu, who, after averaging 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds in a solid freshman campaign, will be the offense’s #1 option in his second year. Aminu will have a supporting cast comprised of a trio of serviceable seniors: point guard Ishmael Smith, shooting guard L.D. Williams and center Chas McFarland. These three will surely provide leadership on the court for coach Dino Gaudio. In addition, four-star recruit Ari Stewart will look to contribute right away with his athleticism on the wing. Wake Forest is a team that has a balance of youth and experience.

The Bad: The Demon Deacons’ two best players and two leading scorers from last season now reside in the NBA. First-round draft picks Jeff Teague and James Johnson, who combined for 33.8 points per game last season, would be juniors now if they had stayed at Wake Forest. Even though the team has solid seniors, the Demon Deacons will be hard-pressed to replace the talent they lost to the NBA.

The Crazie: Once the #1-ranked team last year after upsetting North Carolina, the Demon Deacons lost to unranked Virginia Tech at home, quickly losing place atop the NCAA. Then they were silenced by Maryland in the first round of the ACC tournament, where they were seeded #2. Finally, the Demon Deacons bowed out quietly to an upset-minded 13th seed in Cleveland State. Even with two NBA first-rounders on their team (and a third in Aminu), Wake Forest never played up to their talent level after defeating UNC, mercifully ending what had been a promising season.

We Love to Hate… Ishmael Smith, who averaged 6.0 assists per game but also 3.6 turnovers as a freshman playing for a horrendous team two seasons ago. Quick as a cat but sometimes out of control, Smith will be the full-time point for the Demon Deacons. Playing behind Teague the last two years allowed him to pick his spots. He might have been able to do this, but he still turned the ball over way too much for a point guard. Forget the play of the potential All-American in Aminu, because Wake Forest will need Smith to be much more efficient, especially with the loss of so much talent to the NBA.

Bottom Line: Even with the loss of Teague and Johnson, this team should remain in the top half of ACC. I guess that simply tells you how good the Demon Deacons could have been last season. The senior leadership is there along with the young, talented big men in Aminu and Tony Woods. No one on this team will remind anyone of the Chris Paul or Tim Duncan days, but Dino Gaudio should lead this team back to the NCAA tournament. And this time, they should get out of the first round.

* * *

Crazie Talk’s ACC Rundowns:

Georgia Tech | Virginia | NC State | Virginia Tech | Miami (FL) | Maryland
Boston College | Clemson | Florida State | Wake Forest | North Carolina | Duke