|Wake Forest PF Travis McKie averaged 16.1 points per game last year. (US Presswire)|
Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Last year: 13-18 overall, 4-12 ACC (Tied for ninth)
Coach: Jeff Bzdelik (second year, 21-42; ninth overall, 132-147)
Projected starters: G C.J. Harris, Sr. (16.7 ppg; 2.5 apg; 3.1 rpg); F Travis McKie, Jr. (16.1 ppg; 7.0 rpg); PG Codi Miller-McIntyre, Fr. (17.0 ppg at Hargrave Military Academy); SF Arnaud Adala Moto, Fr. (18.0 ppg; 11.5 rpg at Episcopal HS in Va.); PF Tyler Cavanaugh, Fr. (19.3 ppg at Jamesville-Dewitt HS in New York)
Top newcomer: PG Codi Miller-McIntyre. Miller-McIntyre highlights a seven-man recruiting class. A native of Concord, N.C., he is 6-3, 195 pounds and spent his last year in high school at Hargrave Military Academy. Miller-McIntyre was rated a four-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals, and Scout, and Bzdelik will ask him to assume the ball-handling duties right off the bat.
Key losses: PG Tony Chennault transferred to Villanova during the offseason. Chennault started all 31 games last year and led the Demon Deacons with 88 assists. Chennault was also third on the team in scoring at 9.0 points per game. F Nikita Mescheriakov graduated but also started all 31 games last year. Mescheriakov was fourth on the team with eight points per game.
What you need to know: The Demon Deacons are incredibly young. They have just three upperclassmen on the roster and will rely on youth to handle the ball as well as in the post. Harris and McKie are the ACC's top two scorers from a year ago. Bzdelik will be leaning on them, not only to produce in the box scores but also to provide leadership. If the freshmen are ready to play, Wake Forest could surprise some people.
Mark the calendar:
- Nov. 16 vs. Connecticut: The Demon Deacons face the Huskies in the first round of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam. It's just the second game of the season for Wake Forest, and the freshmen will get their first significant test. Kevin Ollie takes over for the legendary Jim Calhoun at UConn.
- Dec. 1 at Richmond: The Spiders won 70-62 in Winston-Salem a year ago. This is Wake Forest's first true road game of the season. Last year, the Demon Deacons were just 3-8 on the road with wins at Nebraska, High Point, and Boston College.
- Jan. 2 vs. Xavier: This will be the first time Wake Forest plays after a Dec. 22 game at UNC-Greensboro. This is the last non-conference game, and it should provide a good measuring stick for where the Demon Deacons are heading into their ACC season.
Biggest question: Will Wake Forest's freshmen be ready to contribute? Bzdelik is relying on freshmen to shoulder a lot of the load for Wake Forest this season. At point guard, Miller-McIntyre and Madison Jones will play meaningful minutes. Down low, Wake Forest has four healthy players who are 6-8 or taller, and all four are freshmen.
Best-case scenario: Miller-McIntyre is the real deal and takes some of the load off the shoulders of Harris and McKie. The platoon of freshmen post players holds up through the rigors of ACC play, and the Demon Deacons sneak up on some teams. Wake Forest flirts with a winning record and is in the conversation for an NIT berth come March.
Worst-case scenario: The freshmen aren't ready, and there is a repeat of last year, where Harris and McKie were asked to shoulder too much of the team's scoring load. Wake Forest ends up seven or eight games below .500 and the young team does not show any improvement as the season progresses. After an abysmal season for the third consecutive year, Wake Forest is looking for a new head coach at season's end.
Reality: Wake Forest had four ACC wins last year, and all four wins came against the three other teams that finished 4-12 in the league. Outside of Kentucky, it isn't a good idea to rely on this many freshmen in major college basketball. Wake Forest may have two of the better players in the league in Harris and McKie, but it will be too young to make a serious impact in the ACC race.
Season opens: vs. Radford, Nov. 9, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from ACC bloggers Shawn Krest and Sean Bielawski, follow @CBSSportsACC.