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Those Free-Falling Demon Deacons

Here's the Wake scouting report and my preview from the first meeting

A lot has been made of Wake's sharp decline this year, because while the team lost a lot of important players, it seemed as though Gray-Williams-Strickland would be enough to at least put the Deacs in contention for an NCAA bid. Instead, the bottom has fallen out. So what's going on?

To a certain extent, the Deacs have simply been unlucky. They've underperformed their expected in-conference record. Based on efficiency margin, they should be 4-11, not 2-13. But that's only one of Wake's problems.

Take a look at how Justin Gray's numbers have changed from last year to this one:

O Rtg%Poss%MinPts/40PPWSeFG%TO%%ShotsGray 2005115.122.873.421.41.1754.918.327.4Gray 2006105.527.382.721.01.0647.521.231.4
While his per game scoring is up a couple of points, his per minute production has remained constant. He's turning the ball over more often, taking more shots and making them at a lower rate.

The 2005 Deacons were balanced--Gray, Paul, and Williams each had usages in the 22%-23% range. Gray could be more selective with his shots (though he still took plenty), and he fed off of CP3's defense-drawing penetration.

Gray has had no such luxuries this year. Without a lot of support from the backcourt, he's had to work harder to create his own shots, and he has at times been forced to play out of position.

In Basketball on Paper, Dean Oliver notes that balance isn't always optimal. High usage guys (or "scorers") can help a team by allowing other players to take on a lesser role and thus be more efficient. When Gray and Williams are on the court together, they leave roughly 50% of the team's possessions to the other three guys on the court--that's about 16.5% per guy. This is a good thing for Wake Forest, because even at below average usages, the rest of the Deacs haven't been very efficient. Just imagine how much the role players would struggle if the team relied on them more heavily.

Wake Forest OffenseOFF EFF (rank)eFG%TO%OR%FTM/FGA2005120.8 (2)55.519.639.631.52006109.3 (56)
The Deacs have lost over 10 points/100 possessions, taking them from wow to meh. Wake just couldn't servicably replace its backcourt losses--its inexperienced guards don't shoot the ball very well and don't take care of the basketball.

Of the seven players who logged at least 30% of the team's minutes in 2005, none had an effective field goal percentage under 50%. This year, only Ellis, Strickland and Williams are above 50%. Harvey Hale, who has been Wake's most reliable guard outside of Justin Gray, is only shooting 41.5%

When you don't shoot well and can't protect the ball, you're obviously going to have problems.

Still, 109.3 isn't an atrocious number. If Wake improved its defense, it could still be a solid team with that mediocre offense. Iowa is having a great season despite an offense that scores 103.6 points/100 possessions.

But we're talking about a Skip Prosser team here. The Deacs' defense hasn't improved. In fact, it's gotten worse.

Wake Forest DefenseDEF EFF (rank)eFG%TO%OR%FTA/FGA200594.0 (76)49.919.630.132.4200698.4 (120)48.318.431.335.0