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November 24, 2011Wake Forest (3-0 after going 8-24, 1-15 ACC last season) is working to push the nightmare of last season out of its mind, but head coach Jeff Bzdelik said it is time for the Demon Deacons to leave the comforts of Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Deacs enter the Old Spice Classic with the ACC's top two scorers in Travis McKie (22.3 points per game) and C.J. Harris (20.7 points per game).
The tournament's field could not be more evenly matched as nearly every team tipped off 2011-12 after struggling last season.
Indiana State (second round of the NCAA Tournament), Dayton (first round of the NIT) and Fairfield (second round of the NIT) are the only teams in the tournament that played in the postseason in 2010-11.
Deacons Illustrated provides its synopsis of the field.
Game 1 - Thursday, Nov. 24 at 12:00 PM ET on ESPN2: Texas Tech (3-0) vs. Indiana State (4-0)
After failing to meet the blue grass standards in Lexington Billy Gillespie was forced out of Kentucky in 2009. He takes over a Texas Tech (13-19, 5-11 Big XII last season) program that is looking to rebuild.
The Red Raiders are led by guard Ty Nurse, who averages 19.3 points per game, and forward Jaye Crockett adds 11 points and eight rebounds a contest.
Swingman Carl Richard leads Indiana State (20-14, 12-6 Missouri Valley last season) in scoring with 12 points per game, while also pulling down six boards a contest.
Game 2 - Thursday, Nov. 24 at 2:30 PM ET on ESPN2: Minnesota (4-0) vs. DePaul (2-0)
Minnesota jumped to a hot 16-4 start last season, but lost 10 of its final 11 games. Tubby Smith appears to have regrouped the Golden Gophers. Trevor Mbakwe headlines Minnesota with nearly a double-double, averaging 16 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
Oliver Purnell enters his second year at DePaul, and things can only get better (7-24, 1-17 Big East last season). Point guard Jeremiah Kelly leads five Blue Demon double-digit scorers with 17.5 points per game.
Game 3 - Thursday, Nov. 24 at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2: Dayton (2-1) vs. Wake Forest (3-0)
Archie Miller enters his first year at Dayton's helm after Brian Gregory left the Flyers (22-14, 7-9 Atlantic 10 last season) to coach Georgia Tech. Paul Williams' 13.3 points per game highlight the Flyers offense with four double-figure scorers.
As alluded to earlier Wake's duo of McKie and Harris (43 combined points per game) carry the brunt of the Deacs offensive responsibility. However, they have had support from a variety of sources, especially in freshman Chase Fischer who earned ACC Rookie of the Week Monday after averaging 11.5 points a contest the last two games coming off the bench.
The Demon Deacons have been outrebounded in every game this season, but are shooting a solid 50-percent from the field and a mind-blowing 43.4-percent from downtown.
Game 4 - Thursday, Nov. 24 at 9:30 PM ET on ESPN2: Arizona State (1-2) vs. Fairfield (2-2)
Arizona State (12-19, 4-14 PAC 10 [now the PAC 12] last season) limps into Orlando after consecutive losses to Pepperdine and New Mexico. Trent Lockett (17 ppg) and Carrick Felix (15 ppg) lead Herb Sendek's Sun Devils in scoring.
Fairfield (25-8, 15-3 MAAC last season) returned swingman Rakim Sanders, who averages 17 points top four other players in double-figure points for the Stags.