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2017 NCAA tournament preview: Wake Forest

Wake Forest Demon Deacons: 18-12, 9-9 in the ACC

Head coach: Danny Manning (3rd season)

Players to watch: John Collins (18.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG); Bryant Crawford (16.1 PPG, 5.4 APG); Keyshawn Woods (12.8 PPG, 45.8 3PT%)

Season recap: Wake Forest was one of the most improved teams in the ACC this season, going .500 in conference play a year after finishing 2-16. The Demon Deacons won three ACC road games after not winning any the two previous years and finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak, including a marquee win against then-No. 8 Louisville last Wednesday that helped solidify their NCAA tournament resume.

The primary reason for Wake Forest’s success has been the emergence of John Collins, a 6-foot-10 sophomore who shot an ACC-best 62.0 percent from the field and nearly averaged a double-double. The Demon Deacons spread the floor and surround Collins with an army of 3-point shooters, including Keyshawn Woods, who drained 47 3-pointers in the regular season.

Sophomore Bryant Crawford also facilitates the team’s offense, and the guard’s ability to attack the hoop has helped forwards Konstantinos Mitoglou and Austin Arians get good looks on the perimeter. That core has helped Wake Forest to the third-highest scoring offense in the ACC with 82.7 points per game, though the Demon Deacons also own the third-worst scoring defense in the conference, allowing 77.9 points on average.

At least one team has reached 80 points in 13 of Wake Forest’s last 14 games, with the team playing a lot of entertaining, fast-paced shootouts. The Demon Deacons' season was aptly demonstrated in the team's 99-90 loss to Virginia Tech in the second round of the ACC tournament. Although five Wake Forest players scored double digits, the defense allowed 31 points from the Hokies' star forward Zach LeDay. 

How they make a run: Collins—who was a first-team All-ACC selection—continues to dominate like he has for the last month of the season, and Woods and Crawford make timely 3-pointers when the defense collapses to help the Demon Deacons get to the second weekend.

How they falter: With its defensive issues, Wake Forest struggles to contain its first-round opponent and Manning once again fails to pick up his first NCAA tournament victory as a head coach.

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