Deacons face nervous wait for Selection Sunday

Wake Forest's ACC Tournament loss to Boston College on Wednesday has put its NCAA Tournament hopes into serious jeopardy

Wake Forest players Isaiah Mucius (1), Jake LaRavia (0), Cameron Hildreth (2) and Damari Monsanto (foreground) show their dejection as they leave the court following Wednesday's ACC Tournament loss to Boston College (PJ Ward-Brown/North State Journal)

NEW YORK – Steve Forbes is a basketball coach not a bracketologist, so he doesn’t plan on spending the next few days trying to handicap Wake Forest’s chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament.

That won’t stop him from sweating out the time until Selection Sunday afternoon now that his Deacons have put their spot in the field of 68 into jeopardy by losing to Boston College in their ACC Tournament opener at Barclays Center.

“It’s just too much anguish to watch it,” Forbes said after Wednesday’s 82-77 overtime loss to the 13th-seeded Eagles. “I probably won’t watch one game. I’ll probably just … I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll figure it out. Maybe it’s not to be repeated, but I will figure it out, trust me.”

Wake (23-9) could have solidified its first NCAA bid since 2017 by taking care of business in Brooklyn. 

But after squandering a 10-point lead with six minutes remaining in regulation and losing to a team they beat by 30 just a month earlier, they left their fate in the hands of the selection committee.

From the sound of Forbes’ comments at his postgame press conference Wednesday, he’s hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

“I think we’re one of the best 68 teams in the country for sure, but I’m not in the room,” he said. “The narrative for our league hasn’t been very good, so I’m not holding my breath. Do I think we should be? Yes, I do. But I don’t get a vote. We’ll just have to ride it out and see.”

The Deacons dropped from 39th to 44th in college basketball’s NET rankings after Wednesday loss, with only one Quad 1 win and two Quad 3 losses.

It’s a similar resume to the one that left NC State out of the field in 2019 at 22-11.

Although 13-7 the Deacons’ league record is better than that Wolfpack team’s 9-9, the difference might not matter because of the ACC’s sagging national profile. 

Forbes blamed the perception that the ACC is down on the fact that non-traditional programs such as Notre Dame, Miami and Wake are near the top of the standings rather than the more nationally recognized names such as Florida State, Virginia, Syracuse and Louisville.

But the numbers suggest that perception, in this case at least, is reality. 

The ACC is currently rated only ninth in the Division I RPI rankings, behind the Mountain West, American Athletic and West Coast.

Steve Forbes is hoping for the best, but expecting the worst when it comes to Wake Forest’s NCAA Tournament chances (PJ Ward-Brown/North State Journal)

“We had some tough losses in the nonconference, but the whole thing is not based on nonconference,” Forbes said of the ACC. “Teams get better and get worse. There’s a lot of teams I see that are in the tournament that are not playing well right now and have sub-.500 records in the conference, but they won one or two big games in the nonconference. Big deal.”

Although Wake won 10 of its 11 nonconference games, with the only loss coming to highly-regarded LSU, the strength of its out-of-ACC schedule is a factor likely to weigh heavily against it in the NCAA selection process.

The Deacons’ best nonconference win was overtime victory against Northwestern, which sits at No. 82 in the NET.

“We didn’t play a very tough nonconference schedule, but I don’t think there’s anybody in here that thought we should,” Forbes said. “We had nine new players. We didn’t have any (bad) losses in the nonconference. We did our part. We didn’t have a marquee win, either, but I didn’t know Oregon State, coming off an Elite Eight with about four starters back was going to be like that (No. 253). You can’t predict that.”

Even more difficult to predict is how the NCAA selection committee will deal with the Deacons when it fills out its final bracket Sunday afternoon.

That’s why Forbes said he isn’t going to try, although he did take the time to politick for his team before leaving Brooklyn to begin the wait.

“Here’s the thing about the profile: They’re going to try to find something that doesn’t look good,” he said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think there’s 68 teams better than us. But we’re about to find out.”