Entering the 2015-2016 season, the Wake Forest men’s basketball team was seemingly on track for another dreadful season.
Expectations and fan morale were quite low entering Danny Manning’s second season at the helm.
Before a single game had been played the team suffered a heartbreaking recruiting loss, a broken foot to the team’s leading scorer, Codi Millier-McIntyre, and multiple key players were facing undisclosed suspensions. All of this occurred after the ACC Media predicted the Demon Deacons to finish 11th in the conference.
Things were not looking good for the Deacs and most analysts expected this to be yet another lost season for the once proud basketball program. There were reasons to be optimistic looking into the future of the program, thanks mainly to a great freshman recruiting class, but the present was not looking extremely bright for the Demon Deacons. A successful season for the Deacs would have likely contained one big upset win, and signs of improvement from last season.
Well, with the non-conference slate completed and ACC play just picking up, it appears it may be time to readjust our expectations for this Wake Forest team.
The Deacs have quickly gained national attention by overcoming all of the suspensions and injuries to defeat Indiana, LSU and UCLA.
No one could have predicted just how well freshman Bryant Crawford would play and how well this team would perform down the stretch of games, especially away from the Joel. A team that was once expected to be an ACC cellar dweller is on pace for its most successful season since 2010, and is quickly shooting its way into NCAA bracket projections.
Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s bracketologist, currently has the Deacs as one of his first four teams out, putting the team squarely in the NCAA tournament bubble.
Wake Forest has not made an NCAA tournament or won more than six conference games since the 2010 season, and was thought to still be in a rebuilding process. Coach Manning and the team have put themselves in a great position to make noise in the ACC and ultimately receive a postseason bid.
Legendary Louisville coach Rick Pitino believes that “Wake Forest is no longer rebuilding — they are there.”
This is not something that many people would have expected to be possible at the beginning of the season.
Now, while the team has put itself in a great position for success this season, there is still a large amount of work to do, and fans must be careful in getting ahead of themselves as the season progresses. If the Deacs have proven anything so far this season, it’s that every single game will be a dog fight, regardless of how good (or bad) the opposition is.
From top to bottom, the ACC is the toughest conference in America and not a single game will be easy. The Deacs have been much improved this year — there is no denying that. But at times this team has gotten lucky and in order to achieve their goals and reach the NCAA Tournament they must improve defensively and cut down their turnovers.
As fans, it will be easy to get caught up in the early success of this season and expect this team to win every night. That is not going to happen.
This team is good; they’ve exceeded every expectation thus far in the season, but they still have a long way to go.
If the team continues to progress than they stand a very good chance at making the tournament; however, it would not be fair to view this season as a failure if this goal is not accomplished.
This team is providing students, alumni and fans with something they have not experienced in many years: a team to get excited about — enjoy the ride, and be proud of what this team accomplishes.