Manning’s reasons for optimism for life after Thomas

Looking at the 2016 portion of the Wake Forest basketball season, few observers would be able to find many positives. The Deacons have fumbled through the ACC season, wiping out the memories of a strong start last fall. The storm seemed to reach its peak with the announcement that forward Cornelius Hudson was kicked off the team and center Devin Thomas was suspended for two games. The general understanding is that the issues were academic-related.

Thomas has clearly been the team’s best player this season, and Hudson was coming off a 22-point game. Instead of complete disaster, though, what followed could certainly be described as a silver lining with at least the potential for a future positive as well.

About a month ago, we doubted that the Deacons could survive without Thomas in the middle next year. Freshman Doral Moore was a project, playing only a few minutes a game, and classmate John Collins, although playing well this season, was really more of a power forward.

Thomas’ suspension gave coach Danny Manning a chance to test the waters sooner than he expected. The results were revelatory.

Collins improved on his already steady play, averaging 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in 18.5 minutes over the two games. But it was Moore who broke loose with more playing time (jumping from averaging 6.3 minutes in ACC play to 20). He averaged 16 points on 13-of-18 shooting, 7.5 rebounds and three blocks over the two games.

Moore still exhibited some of the issues that kept his minutes low, including…