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Wake Forest was a trendy pick to emerge as a national contender last season, and the Demon Deacons initially lived up to that promise. The Deacons won their first 16 games and were ranked No. 1 in the nation, but they tailed off late in the season and were upset by Cleveland State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Wake won't have to deal with such high expectations this season. Now that James Johnson and Jeff Teague have left school early for the NBA, Wake is just another mid-level ACC team battling for an NCAA berth.
Al-Farouq Aminu decided to stick around for his sophomore season and is a potential lottery pick in a future NBA draft.
While the other two members of Wake Forest's "Big Three" headed to the NBA, Al-Farouq Aminu decided to stick around for his sophomore season. Aminu, a potential lottery pick, shot 52 percent and averaged 8.2 rebounds as a freshman last season. Chas McFarland has worked hard to develop into a physical presence in the paint. The Deacons also are hoping former five-star prospects Tony Woods and Ty Walker make major strides as sophomores. Woods showed flashes of his enormous potential late last season. Freshman Ari Stewart (the No. 52 prospect in the nation) also could make an impact.
Teague's departure should allow senior Ishmael Smith to return to the starting lineup. Smith started as a freshman and sophomore before coming off the bench last season. He still finished eighth in the ACC in assists (3.5) per game. L.D. Williams doesn't provide much scoring, but he's one of the ACC's best perimeter defenders. Gary Clark could have an expanded role this season after averaging 7.2 minutes per game last season. Junior college transfer Konner Tucker's 3-point ability likely will earn him some key minutes. This group's offensive production bears watching.
This could be a critical season for Deacons coach Dino Gaudio as he tries to maintain Wake's status as a program on the rise. Gaudio has shown he can recruit, but he needs to prove he can coach at the same level as the ACC's top tacticians. The Deacons didn't bounce back after falling into a late-season slump last season. Did they learn their lesson? If so, this team should be back in the NCAA tournament.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.