Wake Forest is one of those above-average lower-half ACC squads helping make the conference one of the strongest in the history of the sport.
With a 15-12 record and three games remaining on the regular season ticket, Can the Demon Deacons make a big enough statement to sway the Selection Committee?
Let's start by taking a look at their track record.
Michael Beller of Sports Illustrated offered some keen insight into Wake's strengths in the eyes of the committee. "There is no doubt in my mind they are a tournament-quality team," Beller said. "They're ranked 31st on kenpom.com and eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency. The last time a team in the top 10 offensive efficiency didn't make the tournament was 2011, when Colorado ranked ninth. In John Collins, the Deacs have a nightly double-double threat who's on the fringes of the National Player of the Year discussion."
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Wake Forest doesn't have any terrible losses and has gone toe-to-toe with some of the top teams in the ACC — squads like Duke and North Carolina — that are also nationally ranked.
Danny Manning's group currently owns a RPI rank of 41 with the 16th strength of schedule.
As Beller noted, Wake may not have terrible losses but it has an abundance of losses. Why does this matter so much? "Only six teams have earned an at-large bid with more than 13 losses since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The Demon Deacons already have 12m and still have a home date with Louisville and trip to Virginia Tech on their schedule in the regular season."
Wake hasn't done enough to catch the eyes of the committee just yet. While the Deacons have given the top teams in the country a scare more than once, they are 1-9 against the RPI Top-50.
Manning will have to reach into the magic hat and motivate his group and make an unlikely late push if Wake is going to go dancing in March. A win over Pittsburgh Wednesday night is a must. The Panthers aren't bad, but if Wake plays as good as it did against Duke, there shouldn't be any problems.
As noted earlier, the final two tests come down to a home meeting with Louisville — arguably the second-best team in the ACC — and Virginia Tech, a squad that's been grinding out improbable wins in a push toward the tourney.
Winning all three should do the trick. Beating Pitt and Virginia Tech but falling in a close one to Louisville could be enough to get a bid with a `17-13 record, but it will be tight.
It's tough for me to envision a scenario in which Wake Forest loses two of the last three and still gets a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament. There won't be enough credibility.
The Deacons haven't reached the pool since the 2009-10 campaign where they fell in the second round. It's not a pipe dream to see that changing this season.
The ACC is just starting to get wild, folks. Buckle up.