Hunter Sallis and Efton Reid shake hands with the Florida Gators after an 81-72 win last November. The Gators received a bid as the 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Hunter Sallis and Efton Reid shake hands with the Florida Gators after an 81-72 win last November. The Gators received a bid as the 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Evan Harris

Men’s Basketball earns NIT bid, will play Appalachian State

The Mountaineers earned the Sun Belt regular season title

Although it was not the postseason tournament they hoped for, the Wake Forest Men’s Basketball team (20-13, 11-9 ACC) appears to be in a prime position to capitalize on this year’s National Invitational Tournament (NIT), being chosen by their committee as one of four top seeds. 

As the No. 1 seed in their region, the Demon Deacons face off against in-state rival Appalachian State (27-6, 16-2 Sun Belt). The Mountaineers, who won the regular season in the Sun Belt conference, provide a tough test with quality wins over NCAA Tournament teams like Auburn (27-7, 13-5 SEC) and James Madison (31-3, 15-3 Sun Belt).

“We’ve got more to play for,” Head Coach Steve Forbes said after their ACC Tournament loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers in Washington, D.C. “We should have been in [the NIT] last year, but we didn’t. So we’ll play. We’ll get together… figure it out and then play from there.”

Familiar faces round off the rest of the Wake Forest regional, including the Virginia Tech Hokies (18-14, 10-10 ACC) and the Georgia Bulldogs (17-16, 6-12 SEC). The Demon Deacons fell to both teams on the road during the regular season. 

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Wake Forest enters the tournament with one of the strongest resumes of the Steve Forbes era, finishing 43rd in the NCAA’s NET ranking and ranking 31st in KenPom metrics. The Demon Deacons finished with two “Quad 1” wins on the season, winning against both the Florida Gators (24-11, 11-7 SEC) and Duke Blue Devils (24-8, 15-5 ACC) at home.

“Certainly we would prefer to have our progress recognized with an NCAA bid,” Director of Athletics John Currie said via press release, “but the NIT does represent an important opportunity to build momentum for Wake Forest basketball.”

Should they continue winning, the Demon Deacons will continue to play at home, where they finished 16-1 on the year. The 16 wins represent the second most home wins in program history at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial (LJVM) Coliseum, only behind the 2021-22 season (18). The NIT semifinals and finals will be held on April 2-4 at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“It is disappointing to not be selected into the NCAA Tournament, but we are grateful for the bid to the NIT and looking forward to playing in front of Deacon Nation inside Joel Coliseum this week,” Forbes said via press release. “Our fans and students’ support throughout the 2023-24 season has been incredible and our entire program is appreciative of their ongoing support.”

This is the second trip to a postseason tournament in the Steve Forbes era, having been in the NIT during the 2021-22 season. Former ACC Player of the Year Alondes Williams and the Demon Deacons defeated both the Towson Tigers and VCU Rams at home, before falling to Buzz Williams and the Texas A&M Aggies as a No. 2 seed in College Station, Texas.

The Demon Deacons face off in the first round of the NIT against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at LJVM Coliseum on Wednesday, March 20. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. on ESPN+.

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