Traditionally, reruns don’t begin until the regular season ends.
Breaking with that tradition, the 2017-18 Wake Forest basketball team has jumped the gun on reruns. Those of us watching the Deacons (8-11 and 1-6 in conference play) plunge ever deeper into the college basketball hinterlands keep being shown the same show over and over.
And it’s a bad show, a synopsis of which goes like this:
The Deacons play pretty good defense until it really matters. And then they don’t.
The Deacons don’t get the ball to Doral Moore, their main inside threat, until it really doesn’t matter.
And then they do.
At halftime of last night’s 59-49 home loss to No. 2 Virginia, I started to believe I might see something actually worth seeing. The Deacons led by two at half, and although the Cavaliers owned the pace, they didn’t appear to be all that inspired on this particular Sunday night.
And Wake beat Virginia at its own game in the first 20 minutes, locking down on defense to get stops on 16 of the Cavaliers’ 26 first-half possessions.
Granted Moore had only three points. But that, I reasoned, had as much to do with the two fouls that limited his participation to 11 minutes as the fact that, while he was on the court, the Deacons had fed him with only three entry passes.
He would start the second half with two, I knew, so there would be no excuses if Wake didn’t try to get the big man going.
A confession is in order here. Watching a game on television can be dangerous, especially if there’s an NFL playoff game on another channel. And stupid me, I admit I got caught watching Patrick Robinson of the Eagles return an interception 50-yards for a touchdown and missed the first minute of the Wake-Virginia second half.
Mitchell Wilbekin was at the free-throw line when I switched back, and Virginia had already scored. I didn’t see the first Wake possession, but unless someone fed Moore the ball in the post before Wilbekin got fouled, then that would have been the only time in the first 16 minutes of the half anybody bothered to do so.
The clock showed 4:11 remaining when Brandon Childress lobbed inside for a Moore dunk. The basket cut the lead to 50-45. De’Andre Hunter of Virginia answered with a 3-pointer, and that was pretty much that. Wake got no closer than six, even though Moore got paint touches on the next two possessions.
Somebody’s memory finally got jogged. The Deacons have a 7-1, 285-pound center who has improved dramatically since last season, so much so that he has made 82 of the 115 shots he has taken from the field for a mind-blowing 71 percent.
He’s proven that the only people who can stop Moore from scoring in the low blocks are his teammates, by not throwing him the ball in the low blocks.
Meanwhile, Bryant Crawford, Keyshawn Woods, Brandon Childress and Wilbekin have taken more shots than Moore. For that matter, even Chaundee Brown has taken 117 to Moore’s 115. And Brown, the prize recruit of Coach Danny Manning’s fourth recruiting class, can’t even stay on the floor. He’s averaging 19.4 minutes a game, compared to Moore’s 23.
Plus, he’s played one fewer game.
But the statistic that explains best the fractured nature of Manning’s fourth team at Wake is that Crawford has taken twice as many field-goal attempts – and then some – as Moore. And Crawford, who has heaved the ball at the basket 242 times, is shooting 39 percent, compared, again, to Moore’s 71 percent.
Manning has convinced me that his esteemed reputation for coaching big men is justified. To see the improvement made by John Collins — from a recruit ranked outside the top 100 to the 19th pick of the NBA draft – convinced me of Manning’s expertise in that regard.
And to be honest, after watching Moore huff and puff his way up and down the court the first two years, I had written him off as another bust. To see how he has emerged as junior is further proof of Manning’s ability to develop big men.
I used the word emerged cautiously because to emerge one has to make some noise nationally. And few outside the Wake bubble are even hearing a peep from Moore because of the way he’s getting used, or — in this case – misused.
Dewan Huell of Miami leads the ACC with a field-goal accuracy of 62 percent. That’s because a player has to make five field goals a game to be ranked.
Moore is averaging 4.3.
Think about that a moment. Wake has a center who is making more than seven out of every 10 shots he takes from the floor and he’s averaging barely four field goals a game.
Which begs the question: What is the point of developing a big man if you’re not going to use him once the game begins?