Wake Forest (13-17, 4-12 ACC) faces Maryland (16-14, 6-10 ACC) in the first round of the ACC Tournament Thursday at 12:00 PM ET in Atlanta at Philips Arena.
The Demon Deacons fell to the Terrapins 70-64 earlier this season in College Park.
Deacons Illustrated spoke with Jeff Bzdelik and All-ACC honorees C.J. Harris and Travis McKie about the ACC Tournament.
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik
What are your general thoughts about the challenge ahead of you for the next few days? "The first time we played them they hurt us on the offensive glass. Their two power forwards each had six offensive rebounds, so that's 12, so we need to do a great, great job of making sure when we do stop them that we really do them and they don't get those second chance opportunities and we need to do a better job offensively."
"We were very good in the second half, scoring 40 points and shooting a high percentage, but it wasn't consistent throughout the first half."
Coach, like you said you all played well in the second half and this time around they don't have their home crowd behind them and the way your team has improved where do you think you guys are at right now in being ready for this Maryland team? "Well, I think we're in a good place, I really do. Our guys feel good about themselves in terms of their development together, individually and collectively as a team and we know in losses that we've had recently to Georgia Tech and Duke that we've played well in spurts, but we need to play well longer, so that's the goal."
Another thing is we've heard the mantra that you all getting better and you are obviously. You're in the eight versus nine-game as opposed to where you were last year. What does that say about the progress that you all have made? "Last year I said that at the conclusion of the year that we had made great strides toward our future success. I'm sure I raised a lot of eyebrows, especially after the record, but it's part of a journey toward a great destination in terms of getting back to traditionally the type of young men that's been here at Wake Forest."
"What we need to do is simply stay the course. This year we won more games than we did last year. If you look at the individual statistics of players they've gotten better. We've had a great recruiting year. In fact I just got off the plane. I was in Syracuse last night, [watching] Tyler Cavanaugh. They won. He had 28 points and 13 rebounds. He hit four straight threes in the first quarter, and he hit five in the first half."
"They asked him why he shot the ball so well, and he said, 'The [Carrier] Dome don't bother me.'"
"We feel that with the development of the young players that are here coupled with the young players coming in and the depth that they're going to provide and the culture that's been built as a foundation we feel really good about where we're headed."
You're back to eight scholarship players what are the complications there with the lack of numbers? "It was self-inflicted unfortunately. It was a necessary move [suspending Ty Walker the rest of the season] by my part, and it's unfortunate."
"We played the first eight or nine games, whatever it was without him [Walker]. We just have to move forward. We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves, nor are we going to make excuses. We're just going to have to rise above it."
How does it complicate what you try to do? "It does hurt your depth. It puts you in a tenuous situation in case you get into foul trouble, which we did the other [at Georgia Tech]. We were doing pretty good. It just hurt us, but again no excuses. We've got to find a way to do better."
You just got back from Atlanta, and now you're going back. You have a little familiarity now, probably not the fondest of memories. Is this good for your team? "We're going to try to make good memories. At least we know how to get there."
Wake Forest forward Travis McKie
What did you learn from the first time you played Maryland you think you might be able to use this time? "It's so long ago; contain Stoglin, contain Stoglin and Mosely. That's like 50-percent of their offense right there. If we can contain those two guys we pretty much have a hold on them, so if we do a good job of that and also rebound and defend we have a good chance of winning the game."
Lack of numbers caught up with you the other day [at Georgia Tech] obviously. You stayed in the zone the whole day. You had to be worried about foul trouble. How do you overcome that when you go down Atlanta? "We can't play scared. We have to play fearless no matter how many people we have or what our situation is. We have to deal with it and move on. We can't play fearless. If we have to go man, we have to go man. That's just basketball, so we've just got to deal with it and move on."
Wake Forest guard C.J. Harris
This time around you're a little more familiar with Maryland. What do you take from last game to apply to this game that you all did well, and what do you think you all need to be careful of? "The biggest thing last game we was that we came off to a slow start. They jumped on us quick. I think we were down 20 in the first half, so I think if we cut that out and come ready to play it will be a totally different game."
Does it help to be a little more familiar with Atlanta going into this week? "Yeah, because we've played the atmosphere, and know the court, know the rims; pretty much everybody does, so it will be an even playing field."
Do you guys sort of approach this game with a we've got nothing to lose mentality, so let's just go out there and play? "You have too, because if we lose we're done. We're coming in here knowing that we can win, and believing that we can win."
What do you think you really need to be focused on going into the tournament? "Just focused on what we do well, doing what the coaches have asked of us and just staying focused and knowing what they do well and try to stop that."
You're back down to eight guys. How much of an impact does that have? "It's tough on our rotation. It's tough on guys that have to play a lot of minutes, because everybody is going to have to play. It just puts that much emphasis on that everybody is going to have to bring their A-game."