We're three games into conference play and we're starting to see an identity emerge from the Wake Forest basketball team. I'm going to take a look at some of the trends and things that are sticking out behind the box score of the Demon Deacons.1.) Wake's defense continues to be their strong point.
This has been the theme all year and hopefully will continue to be. Currently ranked 23rd in adjusted defensive efficiency and 3rd in opponent eFG% at 41.1%, the Deacs have been able to bother opponents. The nice thing about this is that by forcing teams into bad shots and collecting the rebound, there are more opportunities for Wake to get out and running on the break. This is absolutely where they are most effective. Which leads me into my next point...
2.) On the break, there might not be a better combo than Ish Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu in the ACC.
This of course is mentioned with the disclaimer that Ish has to have the ball in this scenerio or there absolutely must not be anyone in Farouq's way. AFA is absolutely unstoppable on the break. He is quicker than just about anyone his size and with Ish leading the way, it is almost a guarantee that there is an easy bucket or an alley-oop waiting. Plus, it gets Wake a ton of YouTube clips out of it.
3.) Wake is good at offensive rebounding.
A bit of an understatement I guess, but the Demon Deacons are 27th in the country in OReb%. A lot of that has to do with the above-mentioned Aminu. What is scary is that Wake should be even better in this category. With all of their size (#1 in effective height), there is no excuse for this team not to be good at grabbing the missed shots. There is always potential for the big men to play better, and we saw glimpses of that in the Maryland game.
4.) Maybe the games should always be 45 minutes long.
The Demon Deacons won their 3rd straight overtime game on Tuesday, and what is amazing is that Saturday's loss to Miami could have gone to OT as well. It's assuredly giving Dino some gray hairs, but there is no way to measure just how valuable playing in those close games can be down the road.
5.) The Deacs are road tested...but the ACC is a home court haven.
Wake has played 5 true road games already, including games against teams ranked 8, 50 and 36 in KenPom. The Deacs have been notoriously bad on the road the last few years, and hopefully the early tests will translate into success.
6.) The ACC is f'ing insane.
Let's just look at the standings...
Team Record Conf KenPom
Virginia 10-4 2-0 55
Duke 14-2 2-1 1
Clemson 14-3 2-1 15
Wake Forest 12-3 2-1 38
Maryland 10-5 1-1 30
Virginia Tech 13-2 1-1 46
North Carolina 12-5 1-1 47
Florida State 13-4 1-2 25
Georgia Tech 10-7 1-2 26
Miami FL 15-2 1-2 36
Boston College 10-7 1-2 79
NC State 12-5 1-2 81
Virginia is all alone at the top. Raise your hand if in the middle of January you had UVA with the best conference record. Thought so. Wake has themselves in a very good place right now and was one rebound away from being at the top themselves. But the next two games are killer--if the Deacs can steal a win against Duke or UNC, they'll move into their matchup against UVA with a 3-3 record after the toughest part of their conference schedule.There are no guarantees in the ACC.
7.) C.J. Harris is a Boss.
With a 126.3 oRating, CJ is ranked 49th in the country. He's 39th in the nation in true shooting percentage. Not bad for the frosh. He's averaging 12 ppg, shooting 41.3% from beyond the arc with a 84.5 FT%. After a mini-slump, Harris broke out in a big way against Maryland, hitting huge threes and making the smart play once again. Between him and Ari Stewart, the future is bright and the Deacs have the shooters they have been looking for.
8.) The Deacs might finally be breaking out of that FT fog.
Although they are 241st in the country with a 64% FT%, Wake's practice looks like it's paying off at the charity stripe. Over the last two games (following an abysmal 55.8% against Xavier), the Demon Deacons have shot 80% from the line. If they can keep this up, these are big points and will give the guys more confidence to take it strong to the hoop.