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Xavier travels to Wake Forest for the Skip Prosser Classic

Musketeers and Deacs battle in memory of the late coach

Prosser stands with former Wake Forest star Chris Paul

While it seems unfathomable now, Skip Prosser had Wake Forest ranked No. 1 in the country just 15 years ago. Led by star point guard Chris Paul, the Demon Deacons were near the tail-end of a decade-and-a-half run of success that the program has otherwise never experienced.

People around both programs say that Skip Prosser’s impact went well beyond the basketball court, he brought plenty of success to both programs on the court as well. In 1994, Prosser was hired by Xavier after spending one season flipping a two-win Loyola (MD) squad into an NCAA Tournament team. Prosser was replacing Pete Gillen who had led the Musketeers to seven of their nine NCAA Tournament appearances.

Prosser virtually matched his predecessor’s accomplishments, all while guiding Xavier through its ascent into a major program. In his first season, he led Xavier to an undefeated record in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, then Xavier joined the A-10 in his second season. He wound up making the tournament four times in seven seasons, but his most notable accomplishment debuted in his final season at Xavier when the Musketeers moved into Cintas Center.

Like most of the other coaches to leave Xavier for larger programs, Prosser found plenty of success in his new position. When he arrived, the Demon Deacons had appeared in either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT in 11 straight seasons, he would get it up to 16. Previous coach Dave Odom had brought in future NBA legend Tim Duncan, Prosser found another in Paul. While the Demon Deacons struggled in his last two seasons, Prosser still has the second-highest winning percentage of any Wake Forest coach as only his successor Dino Gaudio won at a higher rate.

Prosser died suddenly of a massive heart attack while jogging on Wake Forest’s campus in July 2007. He was only 56. A funeral was held in Winston-Salem but Xavier needed to show its respect to its former coach as well. A funeral was held in Cintas Center, Xavier’s on-campus arena built largely through his efforts, the following week.

Meet the Demon Deacons— A team that doesn’t live up to its awesome nickname

Record: 5-5 (94th of 353 in KenPom)

Head Coach: Danny Manning, sixth season (70-98 at Wake, 108-127 overall including two years at Tulsa)

Series History: Xavier leads 5-2

Key Figures: Per Game, Rank of 353 Nationally (Xavier’s corresponding number)

PPG: 73.5, 113th (73.6, 110th)

PAPG: 72.7, 233rd (62.8, 45th)

3PT%: 35.4%, 92nd (28.1%, 309th)

KenPom adjusted Tempo: 71.1, 105th (70.0, 151th)

Wake Forest stats (all stats per game)

Brandon Childress 10 10 34.8 41.7% 32.7% 81.3% 0.4 2.7 4.8 1.3 0.0 3.1 2.3 16.6
Olivier Sarr 10 2 25.1 50.6% 0.0% 77.0% 3.3 9.5 0.7 0.2 1.1 1.9 2.8 13.1
Chaundee Brown 9 5 28.4 43.7% 33.3% 89.2% 1.3 6.1 1.7 0.4 0.0 1.7 2.7 11.0
Isaiah Mucius 10 10 22.2 39.3% 33.3% 50.0% 1.9 4.6 1.3 0.2 0.4 1.4 1.8 7.5
Andrien White 10 10 23 40.0% 41.2% 64.3% 0.4 3.8 1.6 1.0 0.0 2.3 1.7 7.5
Torry Johnson 10 5 20.9 44.2% 42.9% 85.7% 0.5 1.3 1.1 0.8 0.0 1.1 2.0 6.2
Sharone Wright Jr 6 0 17.8 29.6% 37.5% 57.1% 0.3 1.3 1.2 0.7 0.3 0.7 1.2 3.8
Jahcobi Neath 9 0 15.3 32.4% 0.0% 57.9% 0.0 1.7 1.9 0.4 0.1 1.6 1.2 3.7
Ismael Massoud 10 0 8.6 32.1% 36.8% 62.5% 0.6 2.1 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.7 0.3 3.0
Ody Oguama 10 8 14.1 62.5% 90.0% 0.8 3.9 0.1 0.3 1.2 0.6 2.9 2.9

Wake Forest has struggled to stay relevant in the years since Prosser led the Demon Deacons and that is almost entirely of its own doing. After Prosser’s sudden death, the school elevated assistant, as well as former Army and Loyola (MD) coach, Dino Gaudio to the head position. After a rough first year where he went 17-13 and failed to make the postseason, Gaudio won 24 and then 20 games in the two following seasons, making the tourney both times and winning a game in his third season before getting beat by John Wall and Kentucky. For some reason unbeknownst to any logical human being, Wake Forest fired the coach with the highest win percentage in modern school history to hire former Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik. (If you’re curious what happened to Gaudio, he wound up at ESPN for nearly a decade before joining Chris Mack’s Louisville staff when Steele got the Xavier job).

Bzdelik was hired after a sparkling 36-58 stint at Colorado. Prior to that, he went 73-119 in two-plus seasons as the Denver Nuggets coach. Believe it or not, his Wake tenure did not go well as he went 51-76 in four seasons, only finishing above .500 in his final season with a 17-16 record. Wake Forest made what seemed like a good hire in the form of former Kansas legend Danny Manning, but he’s failed to rekindle any of the success that Odom, Prosser, or Gaudio had. In the nine seasons since Wake Forest fired a coach who had made his second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, the Demon Deacons have returned to the Big Dance just once since. Manning’s squad didn’t even make it out of Dayton.

After consecutive 11-20 seasons the past couple of years, Manning somehow hung on to coach Wake Forest in 2019-20. Unlike some of his past teams, this squad has no high-impact recruits or transfers that were expected to boost the squad. The odds aren’t great that Manning sticks around beyond March 2020.

Senior point guard Brandon Childress is a fun and talented player on both ends of the court, but there’s not a lot around to help him. Despite the fact that the Demon Deacons shoot at a well-above-average clip from deep, they rank 331st in threes attempted per game. They don’t have much shooting and they play bad defense. There’s not a whole lot else that needs addressing.

Questions for the Musketeers

  • How many guys play? Xavier largely stuck to an eight-man rotation against Cincinnati in the Crosstown Shootout, as freshman guard Kyky Tandy barely played while freshman guard Dahmir Bishop and sophomore forward Dontarius James didn’t play at all. Xavier coach Travis Steele has said that Bishop needs to earn his minutes in practice, but expect to see plenty of Tandy at Wake.
  • Will Jason Carter get his confidence back? After shooting 34.3% from deep as a sophomore at Ohio, Carter is currently firing at a 22.2% clip this year. Steele said that this week that Carter “just needs to stop pressing”. Steele noted that Carter has spent a lot of time in the gym getting his confidence back and that he expects him to do so.
  • When will Travis Steele buy a round of drinks again? After picking up his first Crosstown Shootout win last Saturday, Steele raided an ATM to drop a $1000 for a round of drinks at noted Xavier watering hole Dana’s. The bet here is that he’ll match the feat when he clinches Xavier’s second Big East Championship.

Game Information

Time/Place: 4:00 p.m. at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

TV: ACC Network

Line: Xavier -5.5

Game Prediction

Itching to get back on the court for a week after a massive rivalry win should help negate what could be a natural letdown spot for the Musketeers. It helps that the Demon Deacons might be the worst power conference team in America because there’s just not enough talent for the Demon Deacons to compete with a ranked squad. After years of pathetic performance on the court, it’s hard to see how a battered fanbase gives Wake Forest much of a home-court advantage either. Xavier dominates.

Xavier 77, Wake Forest 61