MBB misses out on March Madness

The team will now look ahead to the National Invitational Tournament, where they can prove the doubters wrong


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

The Demon Deacons’ loss to Boston College in the ACC Tournament still looms large.

Christian Odjakjian, Staff Writer

This is March, where anything can truly happen at any moment, and anyone can beat anyone. Upsets, glory, heartbreak. The highest highs, the lowest lows. And that’s why we love it.

The energy around the Wake Forest men’s basketball program this season is as high as it’s been in over a decade. A strong regular season set this team up to play meaningful games in March.

“We plan to compete for championships, play meaningful games in March, cut down nets and raise banners,” Wake Forest Head Coach Steve Forbes said when he took over the Demon Deacons program in April of 2020. “To get that done, we have to reignite the energy around our program.”

Unfortunately, with a chance to secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the John Collins-led squad made it in 2017, the Demon Deacons could not make a run in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn.

A return to the NCAA Tournament seemed highly probable for most of this season, but a combination of factors left the 37th ranked KenPom Demon Deacons out of the big dance.

Wake Forest fell to the 13th-seeded Boston College Eagles, 82-77, in overtime last Wednesday. The Demon Deacons led by 10 with six minutes to go after being outplayed for most of the game. ACC Player of the Year Alondes Williams was dealing with a leg cramp and was in and out of action to close the game. 

With five seconds remaining in regulation, and the score knotted up at 70, Williams was called for an offensive foul. Brevin Galloway of the Eagles missed a shot at the buzzer to win it, but the underdog was able to pull out the victory in overtime.

Once the result of that game was determined, the NCAA Tournament bubble waiting game began. Almost every “bracketologist” had Wake Forest safely in the field at the beginning of conference tournament play, but losing to a Boston College team with a losing record, combined with bubble teams across the nation stepping up and winning games, created the perfect storm for the Demon Deacons to be left out of the field of 68.

A 23-9 record, including a 13-7 mark in ACC play, usually should be plenty for a team in this conference to receive not only a tournament bid, but a good seed. However, a weak non-conference schedule, as well as a down year within the ACC, dissuaded the committee from including Wake Forest over a 17-14 Michigan team, for example. 

The Demon Deacons weren’t even listed on the “first four out” by the selection committee on the bracket reveal show, which was pretty informative, meaning that even if Wake Forest did defeat Boston College, they would have had to at least beat Miami in the next round to have received an at-large bid.

However, exclusion from the NCAA Tournament doesn’t mean that the season is over. Wake Forest accepted to play in the National Invitational Tournament, where the next best 32 teams compete. The final four is played in Madison Square Garden. The Demon Deacons are a No. 2 seed, and will host the regular-season champions of the Colonial Athletic Association, the Towson Tigers.

If they win that game, the winner of the VCU versus Princeton game would come to Winston-Salem.

NIT games are played at the campus site of the better-seeded team, meaning Wake Forest could host up to three games at the Joel Coliseum, if the #1 seed in the bottom right bracket Texas A&M, fails to reach the regional finals.

While it’s a disappointment that this revitalizing season didn’t ultimately lead to a March Madness appearance, this year has still been a big success for a program that was in dire need of energy.

Forbes said in his opening press conference that he plans on getting this team to play meaningful games in March. The Demon Deacons are doing just that this season.