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StLouHoo's Preview:

A Must-Win in Winston-Salem

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Virginia's lost four of its last five, none against the league's top teams. As the Hoos work furiously to save their postseason hopes, they travel south to visit a Wake Forest team that's consistently struggled for the last few years. If the Hoos are who we want them to be, this is a contest Virginia must win. Will we see Tony Bennett's club put together a solid 40 minutes to get the road victory?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Sunday, January 26th, 12:00 am ET
Location:Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem, NC
TV:ACCN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:
Torvik:Ranks WF #120, predicts a 57-56 UVA win, 58% confidence
KenPom:Ranks WF #104, predicts a 58-57 UVA win, 53% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#0 Brandon Childress, 6'0" 195, SR
34.2 mpg, 15.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, 32.2 3P%
SG#11 Torry Johnson, 6'3" 175, SR
24.9 mpg, 6.2 ppg, 1.0 apg, 27.3 3P%
SF#13 Andrien White, 6'3" 200, SR
23.6 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 41.1 FG%
PF#33 Ody Oguama, 6'9" 205, FR
15.6 mpg, 3.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 61.3 FG%
C#30 Olivier Sarr, 7'0" 255, JR
25.8 mpg, 13.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 53.0 FG%
Key Reserves
G#4 Jahcobi Neath, 6'3" 200, FR
16.2 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 1.5 apg, 45.5 3P%
G/F#2 Sharone Wright Jr., 6'5" 185, SO
11.8 mpg, 3.1 ppg, 0.8 apg, 30.0 3P%
F#1 Isaiah Mucius, 6'8" 195, SO
21.0 mpg, 6.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 37.3 FG%
F#25 Ismael Massoud, 6'8" 200, FR
11.3 mpg, 4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 37.5 FG%

 

The ABC's of Wake Forest:

A) They've got a veteran backcourt. Wake starts a trio of seniors at the 1 - 3 spots. At lead guard is Wake legacy Brandon Childress leading the Deacs in both scoring and assists. At his side is the transfer from Northern Arizona (in his second year in the ACC) Torry Johnson, a well-rounded though low-usage scoring guard. The third guard in this discussion is Richmond native and former Charlotte standout Andrien White who is the Deac's designated 3-point gunner; the majority of his shots are from behind the arc where he's hitting 40%. They pair with true junior 7-footer Olivier Sarr who's a threat both scoring and rebounding, and you've got a Wake Forest team not lacking in experience in their starting lineup. Not mentioned is junior guard Chaundee Brown who's missed the last five games with a lower leg injury.

B) They shut down the glass. Even with the Hoos strong frontcourt, don't expect UVA to get a lot in the way of offensive rebounds or second chance points in this one. Wake Forest is one of the best in the ACC at keeping opponents off the glass. It all starts with Sarr, who by KenPom's numbers is #11 nationally in individual defensive rebounding rate, grabbing nearly 30% of opponent misses when he's on the floor. His young supporting cast in the post is doing their part too, with Massoud, Mucius, and Oguama all hitting the glass with discipline. Brown's absence hurts somewhat, as he was one of the ACC's best-rebounding guards, but I still expect Wake to be solid here against a UVA team that doesn't put an emphasis on crashing the offensive boards.

C) Another year, another soft Wake Forest defense. Danny Manning has never coached a Top-100 defense in his six years in Winston-Salem, this year ranking 141st in KenPom. Other than the rebounding discussed above, they seem to have no real defensive identity. They don't clog the paint well (14th in the ACC in 2P%D), they don't block shots (14th again), they don't ball hawk (dead last in defensive TO-rate and steal rate), and they don't lock down perimeter shooters (9th in the league in 3P% allowed). It's just not a part of the culture at Wake and a reason they struggle year in and year out. They Hoos should be able to run clean offense against the Deacs, we'll just have to see if we can finish shots.

 

Their Season To Date

Wake Forest is 9-9 on the season, 2-6 in the ACC. Their best win was a home upset of Xavier in December, they have a bad loss to Ron Sanchez's Charlotte on the resume as well, and have added ACC wins over Pitt (road) and BC (home). They've lost four of their last five, though, most recently a 3 point road loss at Clemson.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Don't bail them out with free throws. Wake's an okay offensive team. Not great, not terrible. They shoot a respectable 36% from 3 in ACC play and 49% from 2. But where they excel is drawing shooting fouls. They go very hard to the rim, both with Sarr playing on the blocks and with their guards attacking downhill. It means they get a lot of shots blocked (3rd-worst in the ACC), but they also get a lot of whistles, and lead the league in FTA/FGA ratio at 43%. They peaked with 40 FTAs earned against UNC-Asheville, but also shot 32 against FSU and 29 against Pitt. In Tuesday's loss to Clemson, however, the Tigers stayed disciplined and only allowed 15 FTAs which proved a difference maker in the tight game. The Hoos must follow that lead.

2) Run off turnovers. The Hoos were able to build an early lead against GT last week by forcing the Jackets into live ball turnovers and getting out and scoring in transition. As the UVA offense sputters at time, running off steals is a value-added opportunity. Wake, by contrast, has struggled mightily with ball security this year, having the worst offensive steal rate in the conference. Four of the Deac's ACC opponents have logged double-digit live-ball steals against them, and the Pack Line could similarly frustrate Wake's loose-handled guards.

3) Attack the paint. Sarr is a monster in the middle, though he's not known as a prolific shot blocker and often struggles with fouls (he's registered 3 or 4 fouls in each of his last six ACC games). And his supporting cast is weak, freshmen Oguama and Massoud are overmatched defensively and sophomore Mucius isn't faring much better. Wake has the ACC's second-worst paint defense, teams hitting well over 50% inside the arc against them, and the league's second-lowest block rate. They don't cause a lot of turnovers either with help defense or clogging passing lanes, and they foul at the third-highest rate in league play. The Hoos need to have no fear feeding the bigs and attacking with the guards at this one, letting our stellar downhill potential shine to carry us offensively.

 

 

Predictions:

I want to let myself say this is a game Hoo fans finally shouldn't have to worry too much about, as really if Brown is out again there's only two players on Wake Forest who I find legit ACC-level scary, Childress and Sarr. The rest are either a half-step below top ACC quality or just too young to be consistent yet.

And yet, the computers all have this as a near-toss-up. Virginia's already lost on the road at a BC team that the computers think is worse than this Wake team, and been unable to beat other teams that "on paper" the Hoos were better than. So needless to say, not even Wake Forest can be taken for granted.

Ultimately, looking up and down the benches, I think we're in store for a great battle between good PGs (Childress vs Kihei), an underwhelming battle between struggling perimeters (Casey/Tomas/Kody vs White/Johnson/Neath), and a distinct UVA advantage with the forwards and centers (all respect to Sarr, but he's not well supported). UVA also has the advantage in coaching, as even Deacon fans have little faith in Manning to call a great game.

It won't be pretty, it won't be the typical UVA handling of Wake, but I think UVA knows this is a must-win and will play like it, gutting out the needed road victory.

Hoos Win 57-48