Wake Forest's case for an NCAA bid

The Demon Deacons are on the bubble, but prospects look good

BROOKLYN -- Wake Forest bowed out of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday and climbed aboard its home for the next four days: the bubble.

“I’ve been fortunate and blessed to be around this game for a very long time,” coach Danny Manning said after the 99-90 loss to Virginia Tech. “Sometimes, it’s not very logical. So we’re going to sit back and wait. That’s our reality right now.”

Manning can at least take solace in the fact that the wait will be more Christmas Eve than Green Mile. The numbers indicate that Wake should see its name on the NCAA brackets on Selection Sunday.

The experts:

CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the two most-experienced bracket gurus in the business, both have Wake Forest in the tournament. Palm has the Deacs as an 11 seed and one of his last four in. Lunardi has Wake as a 12, headed to Dayton for a play-in—er, round one game.

The models:

Wake Forest is ranked No. 40 in the RPI, one behind Wisconsin. The Deacs are also two ahead of Virginia Tech and 14 ahead of NCAA darling Northwestern.

The KenPom rankings like Wake even better, putting the Deacs at 31. That’s ahead of Northwestern and Maryland and one behind Miami.

Wake has three wins against top 50 teams and eight against top 100. The Deacs also don’t have a bad loss, or even a mildly upsetting one. Seven of Wake’s 13 losses were against top 25 teams (according to RPI) and all of them were to top 100 teams.

The biggest hole in Wake’s resume was a win over a top team, and the Deacs took care of that in the last week of the regular season, topping Louisville (RPI No. 3). Wake also has a win over NO. 37 Miami, a road win over No. 42 Virginia Tech and a neutral site victory over Charleston (No. 62).

The eye test:

This, more than anything, is where Wake can rest assured that it will be dancing. The team won 19 games against a tough schedule and finished at .500 in the ACC. Wake had 12 wins by double digits, including a 30-point win over NC State, 17 over Miami and 12 over Georgia Tech. Plus, a 12-point loss at Clemson is Wake’s only double-digit loss in the last two months.

The Deacons are hot, entertaining to watch and have one of the conference’s best players in John Collins. The tournament will be more entertaining with them in it.

The verdict:

By whatever measure you choose, Wake appears to be on the positive side of the bubble. It will be a fairly big surprise if the Demon Deacons are left out in the cold on Sunday.

“I think some losses early in the season kind of hurt us a little big,” freshman guard Brandon Childress said. “But I think down the line, during ACC play, we picked up a few big wins, especially upsetting Louisville and now Virginia Tech. Being 9-9 in ACC play, I think that helped up out a lot. Hopefully, we get in. If not, we’ve got to be ready to play, no matter if it’s the NIT or NCAA Tournament.”

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