Many thanks to Robert Reinhard (@Robert_Reinhard) of SBNation's Wake Forest site - Blogger So Dear for initiating a Q/A swap in advance of Notre Dame hosting Wake Forest Tuesday night. These are Robert's excellent responses to my questions, and you can find my answers to his in this post on their site.
On a scale from 1-to-euphoric, how happy are Demon Deacon fans to have Danny Manning? From an outsiders point-of-view, it feels like an epic upgrade.
Wake fans are thrilled with Danny Manning. He wasn't our first choice, and there was some hesitation at first due to his lack of head coaching experience, but he's turned into an excellent hire. He brings a winner's mentality, and has given fans a lot of hope moving forward. He's demonstrated an eye for talent, by bringing in graduate transfer Darius Leonard to go along with freshmen Mitchell Wilbekin, Cornelius Hudson, and ACC Rookie of the Week Dinos Mitoglou. In addition to those four, he has a top-20 recruiting class coming in next season. Our teams compete on a nightly basis, and it's very refreshing to actually have confidence going into games.Manning will get this program back to where we belong.
Looking at Wake's performances in ACC games this year, shooting seems to be the key. In the four wins, Wake is shooting 58% eFG, but only 46% in the losses. It stands to reason that a team that shoots over twenty 3's per game is reliant on good shooting to compete, but is that an oversimplification? What drives the Wake offense?
"Knock down shots" certainly does sound simple, but I believe it to be true. This team really struggled with turnovers earlier on in the season, but has done a much better job of limiting those as the season has progressed. Now it does mostly come down to hitting shots in addition to our above average offensive rebounding rate. I feel that we pretty consistently take "good looks," but our success is dependent upon making them. We don't have many, if any, players who can create their own shot easily, so we are dependent upon the three ball. When our freshmen are knocking down shots, we can play with almost everyone, but when they don't we can fall down easily. We fell down 14-3 at Georgia Tech a few weeks ago. I thought we had good looks early on in that contest, but we just didn't convert.
We've heard Danny Manning talk about the Deacs needing to "guard your damn man," but in Wake's victories their opponents have had a higher average offensive efficiency than they have in Wake's losses. How much of this current team and their performance a reflection on how Manning wants to build the program going forward vs. him doing his best with the components he inherited?
Manning is certainly a defensive minded coach, specifically pressure man-to-man. I think it's taking him some time to get the caliber of athlete he would prefer. In his first year at Tulsa, they had an adjusted defensive rating that was ranked 137th. In his second year they were 30th. Wake Forest is currently 108th defensively and 105th offensively. I don't know if it's fair to assume a jump into the 30s, but I believe we'll have more team length and athleticism, which should allow us to play better defense. Watching our games, it seems that we give up so many points in the paint just by opposing teams shooting over top of our bigs. That will happen less often next year. Manning also wants to play pretty fast. Wake has the 29th fastest tempo in the country, and I'd expect Wake to play at a fast pace annually under Manning.
Devin Thomas is a guy who terrorized the Irish in both beat-downs last year. He seems to be a bellwether for the Demon Deacons. In all four ACC wins, he shot over 50% from the floor and got to the stripe. What are the keys to the junior big man's game? How have opponents failed or succeeded in slowing him down?
Devin can be puzzling at times. In close losses to Louisville and Duke this season, he was a monster and averaged huge numbers.Yet, in an unfortunate loss to Delaware State early on in the season he went 0-7 from the field and was held scoreless. Teams have been successful against him by utilizing double teams. Virginia employed this strategy and was very successful doing this. His left hand is much better than his right, so teams forcing him right can cause him to take bad shots. He is much better facing up to the basket, but has had problems recently with traveling violations. He's also an outstanding rebounder. One x-factor for Devin's game is his attitude. He's an emotional player, and that can be good and bad. It can also cause some officials to pay extra attention for him to do anything wrong.
Wake is probably the only ACC team where the leader in made threes is a 6'10" freshman. I was shocked to see Konstantinos Mitoglou has made more threes this season than any Irish player other than Pat Connaughton. How has his stretch presence changed the Wake offense? How is the big Greek on the defensive end? Will Manning be able to keep him in the game if Mike Brey deploys his 5 guard look?
Dinos has been excellent as of late, and has shot over 60% from 3 over his last 8 games. He has given us an additional reliable three pointer, and also stretches the floor to give Codi Miller-McIntyre more driving lanes and Devin Thomas more room to operate in the post.Your question about Dinos on the defensive end is a good one. He's fine at defending traditional post players, but does not have very good lateral quickness and struggles to defend quicker players. Wake faced this issue against Miami when they went with a 4-out offense. If opposing teams have a 4 or 5-out offense and Dinos and Devin Thomas are both on the court, then that's usually a problem for us on the defensive end.
OK, prediction time. What's the one key Demon Deacon fans will be watching for as the game tips off Tuesday evening in South Bend, and what's your prediction?
I think the main key to Notre Dame's offense and team is their ability to knock down threes. That's why ND has the best effective field goal percentage in the country. Wake has done a good job all season of defending the 3-ball, but ND is going to have to have a below-average shooting night if Wake is going to come away successful. I think Wake will play hard, but Notre Dame's offense and passing are bad matchups for our defense. I think ND will find the man Dinos is guarding and isolate. I'll take Notre Dame to win 80-70.
A huge thanks to Robert and the gang at Blogger So Dear. Tune in to ESPNU for coverage Tuesday night and check back here for your full recap after the game.