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ACC Preview #4

| UNC | NC

If you want to make some easy money on a sucker bet, get someone to bet you
that Wake Forest won't make the NCAAs. In many ways, this is the most
intriguing team in the ACC - three guys who can play point with at least
competence in Jim Fitzpatrick, Robert O' Kelley, and Broderick Hicks, an ace
shooter in Craig Dawson at off guard (O' Kelley will of course be the primary
shooting guard unless he has to cover point), athletic wings in Niki Arinze, who
should be recovered from his injury, Ervin Murray, and Josh Howard, and
significant front court depth in Atwan Scott, Josh Shoemaker, Darius Songaila,
and Rafael Vidaurreta. The only possible hole is at center, and transfer
Tate Decker should at the very least provide depth there If he turns out to be a
factor, that's huge for Wake.

This is a deep, talented team. What's not to like?

Well there is that issue at center. If Decker is really good, then they
have it covered. If he's not, the forwards have to take it up, and while they're
wide, they're not tall.

In addition, Broderick Hicks was errratic last year as a point, but many
freshman take a bit to get adjusted, and he is very quick.

If Hicks continues to struggle, that means that O' Kelley will likely have to
play point, which will diminish his offense. As the ACC Tourney last season
showed, playing point isn't necessarily his strong suit.

The frontcourt, though it lacks a Duncan or Woods, is still potentially
excellent. All five players are at the least solid, and all are
strong. The biggest question would revolve around getting someone open
underneath, but you know what? With O' Kelley and Dawson, it's much harder to
cheat on defense: you have to defend those guys. Either one can shoot you
right out of a game. If you remember that phenomenal Childress game against UNC,
or Battier's eruption against Maryland last year, you know what that can mean.

The offense should be potent, but defense is where Wake can really be
impressive. When you can choose from O' Kelley, Arinze, Hicks, Dawson, and
Murray as perimeter defenders, and back them up with rugged guys like Vidauretta,
Shoemaker, Songaila and Scott, you've got potentially very serious pressure on
the ball, and the depth is tremendous resource when you have to crack down on
someone. If Dawson wears out, bring in Arinze. If he gets tired, bring in
Murray. Then back with Dawson...

Who plays point is a key issue here - if O' Kelley is forced to do it, he'll
have to sacrifice his offense to some extent. Fortunately the Mad Bomber Craig
Dawson is there to pick up the slack, and though he suffered through shin
splints last season, this guy can really light it up. Believe it.
But having him chase around Ed Cota, Jason Williams, and Majestic Mapp will
diminish his offense quickly.

The key question, from our point of view, aside from point and center, is
this: how will roles develop with this group? Obviously O' Kelley will
start, and likely Songaila and Vidauretta as well, and we'd expect either Hicks
or Dawson at one guard and people have talked up Decker. But there are
only 200 minutes available, total, and some equally talented players will have
to sit. How Wake, and these players, deal with that reality is a serious
key to their season.

Assuming though, that those things work out, this is a deep team with good
outside shooting and rugged insiders - not to mention solid coaching. It's hard
to see how Wake could miss the NCAAs this year, and if things go exceedingly
well, they might have their best run since the days of Rod Griffin.

In our estimation, Wake and State should be the most improved teams in the
ACC this year.