The fourth installment of the Skip Prosser Classic finds Wake Forest and Xavier both riding four-game winning streaks into Saturday’s meeting after stumbling through the Battle 4 Atlantis last month.
Wake lost games to Kansas and Tennessee while Xavier fell to Iowa, Tennessee and USC during the Bahamas tournament. On the bright side, neither the Musketeers (9-3) nor Demon Deacons (10-2) have lost on U.S. soil. That, of course, will change Saturday.
The Deacs haven’t played the most imposing schedule. Their venture into the Cintas Center in their final nonconference game before ACC play represents their first true road game.
People outside of Winston-Salem don’t expect much from Wake, which was picked to finish 13th in the ACC's preseason media poll. Then again, many inside the city don’t either -- that’s why there were growing rumblings to fire coach Jeff Bzdelik last season. The Deacs' quick start has silenced those voices for the moment.
Wake boasts four players averaging double-figure scoring. Sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre averages 17.5 points and 4.0 assists, both of which are nearly double his freshman season stats.
A win over Xavier would be Wake's best victory of the season and signify Bzdelik is making some progress.
The Musketeers earned a confidence-boosting road win at Alabama last week after a satisfying triumph over rival Cincinnati the week before. Those wins put coach Chris Mack in position to earn a milestone 100th career victory should Xavier beat Wake Forest on Saturday.
Mack has the depth he lacked last season and has the Musketeers blending at the right time before beginning their first season in the new Big East. Along with Villanova and Creighton, who may just be a notch above the rest of the league, Xavier can establish itself in the league’s upper tier.
The Musketeers are getting solid leadership from leading scorer Semaj Christon and forward Matt Stainbrook, who leads the team in rebounds and blocked shots. Freshman Myles Davis has been an offensive spark off the bench, averaging 9.5 points while shooting 47 percent from 3-point range.
Prosser coached at Xavier for 15 years, including a stint as head coach from 1994 to 2001, and was head coach at Wake from 2001 until his untimely passing in 2007. He used to relish the chance to turn a team that was overlooked into a contender.
This year’s matchup, the fourth in a 10-year contract, will determine which team best fits that category.