Kyle Tatich/Old Gold & Black
Kyle Tatich/Old Gold & Black

Men’s basketball needs to find wins in December

Suspensions, an injury and a heartbreaking loss in recruiting. This combination of factors make for perhaps the worst possible past 30 days for Wake Forest basketball.

Sophomores Rondale Watson and Cornelius Hudson were suspended for a violation of team rules on Oct. 31 and will miss the beginning of the season. According to sources the pair could be eligible as soon as the Maui Invitational, making their suspension just three regular season games. However, the program has not made any official announcement about the timetable for their return.

Senior guard Codi Miller-McIntyre is out for the foreseeable future after he suffered a fractured foot in mid-October. It was first thought he would miss just the month of November but his return will truly depend on how quickly his foot heals to 100 percent.

The third and final factor that leads to the unfavorable start to the season comes from a 17-year-old. Harry Giles, the No. 1 recruit in the country chose to attend Duke University on Nov. 6, live on ESPN.

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Giles, a Winston-Salem native, grew up a Wake Forest fan, is mentored by Demon Deacon great Chris Paul and is friends with 2016 commit Brandon Childress. The commitment from Giles would have been program changing and his decision to stay in Winston-Salem would have made him a hometown hero.

Sadly, his choice to reject the coach most similar to him, his skillset and injuries is unfortunate for both parties, just as his decision to head to Duke will always be viewed as a hometown heartbreak to the “what could have been.”

Despite the misfortune in recent weeks for the Deacs there is optimism for a new season and opportunity to get closer to the competitiveness the program has experienced in recent history.

At 21-12 (10-8 in ACC play) Miami did not make the NCAA Tournament last year and was considered by many to be one of the first teams out of selection a year ago. It’s no secret that reaching the Tournament is every ACC team’s goal entering the season. However, for the Deacs, reaching the tournament will not be an easy task.

Wake Forest plays one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country and will need to capitalize on what I like to call the toss-up matchups that precede ACC play. Among those games considered “toss-ups” are Richmond, Arkansas, Xavier and No. 19 LSU. If the Deacs can split these four games and win just two of them, I think Wake Forest is in a good position heading into ACC play.

In addition to the “toss-ups,” I have a category of “must wins” which under no circumstance can the Deacs afford to lose. Among those are UMBC, at Bucknell, at Rutgers, UNCG and Coastal Carolina. Winning each of these five games is crucial for the Deacs, since they are games that should serve as confidence-boosting victories.

Wake Forest will play in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 23-25, playing in three games.

The only known opponent for the Deacs is Indiana, ranked 15th to begin the season. This tournament will be a quick wake-up call, since the Deacs will play some of the best programs in the country.

When the Deacs return from Hawaii they will begin playing many of these “toss-up” matchups.

Realistically, I see Wake Forest entering ACC play with four to five losses. But, if Wake Forest can surprise the country and win at least two games in Maui, in addition to some of those “toss-up” games, Deacon fans could have reason to be optimistic about playing in March.

Despite the misfortunes to begin the season, I somehow feel optimistic about this season. Miller-McIntyre can no longer be “patient,” and I for one am optimistic to see what Wake Forest can do under his leadership again this season.

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