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Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Wake Forest still looking historically bad

By Eamonn Brennan

Back in November, during the halcyon days of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, I described Wake Forest's 76-73 win over Iowa in the terms I thought it deserved. Those terms -- "bad shots," "ugly," "bad shots," etc. -- were not warmly received by the Demon Deacon faithful, many of who rather rudely (and ironically!) chastised me according to the age-old "If You Can't Say Anything Nice ..." principle.

Message received. No one likes to hear bad things about their program, even if they know there's nothing particularly nice to say about that program at the given time. So, Wake fans, you'll have to forgive me. I promise I'm not piling on. It's just that, well, this Wake team isn't merely bad. This Wake team is on pace to be historically bad. That's something most non-Wake college hoops fans might like to know. And anyway, don't blame me: Basketball Prospectus' John Gasaway has the numbers to prove it.

Gasaway's latest Tuesday Truths reveals the depths to which the Deacons have sunk this season, and it isn't pretty. Wake Forest has been outscored by ACC opponents by an average of .37 points per trip this season. To put that number into perspective, Miami, the next-worst team in the ACC, has a negative efficiency margin of .06 points per possession. If Wake keeps this up, it's likely to be the least efficient major-conference team of any in recent history. From Mr. Gasaway:
The worst major-conference team I've seen in recent years was Oregon State in 2008, which was outscored by the Pac-10 by 0.30 points per possession. As seen here, there's a chance that standard will be eclipsed this season. It's rare for a team to have both its major conference's worst offense and its worst defense by very wide margins.

There's really no getting around it: This Wake Forest team appears to be the worst major-conference squad in the country. Yikes.

There are a host of long-term issues this presents for Wake athletic director Ron Wellman, who somewhat controversially upended the program this offseason when he fired the marginally successful Dino Gaudio and hired the essentially unproven Jeff Bdzelik. Wellman probably expected a rebuilding process, but this? This is not an ideal rebuild. (Which is not to say that Bzdelik is in any danger of losing his job anytime soon, just that the move hasn't exactly made Wellman and company look savvy. At least not yet.)

Anyway, Wake Forest can cross that bridge when they reach it. In the meantime, if only for Wake fans' sake, let's hope the Demon Deacons find a way to improve throughout the rest of the ACC season. No fan base -- especially one as proud and passionate as Wake's -- deserves to go through this.

(Was that enough to get me off the angry-email hook? No? Sorry, guys. I did my best.)