Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik will seek a 3-0 start in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge as the Deacs take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers at 9:15 on ESPNU. The Deacs are also seeking a 4-2 record and their third win in a row.
Wake Forest and Nebraska will meet for the second consecutive year in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, this year in Winston-Salem at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Deacs won last year's game 55-53 on a last second shot by C.J. Harris that ended a back and forth battle between two teams struggling to compete in their respective conferences.
Nebraska comes into the game tonight with a 4-1 record, winning four in a row to start the year against Southern, Valparaiso, Nebraska-Omaha and Tulane, before losing by 14 points to Kent State.
The Cornhuskers are ranked 218th in Ken Pomeroy's rankings compared to a 205 ranking for Wake Forest. Needless to say, this is one of the worst "BCS" conference matchups that you can get. It very well could be the worst combined ranking of big conference teams ever.
While the Deacs rely on getting to the foul line (3rd in the country at 59.2 FTA per 100 FGA) and above average shooting, the Cornhuskers rely on a slow paced, methodical game that emphasizes layups and short jumpers.
Nebraska averages an adjusted 62.1 possessions per game, 14th slowest in the country. The Deacs meanwhile, average 68.0 possessions per game, 116th quickest in the country.
Both teams will rely heavily on 2-3 players for the majority of their leadership and scoring on the court. The Huskers SR wing Dylan Talley has played 88% of the minutes so far this year and takes 30.4% of their shots while on the court. It will be interesting to see who the Deacs put on him to prevent him from shooting the 3-ball (7-21 on the year), as well as getting to the basket.
6-10 SR Brandon Ubel (81.5%) and 6-2 JR (85.5%) have also played over 80% of the Huskers minutes this year. Gallegos has already taken 37 threes this year (13-37, 35%), while Ubel will take it right at the Deacs inside (69% from inside the three-point line on the year at 29-42).
The Deacs will look to get the ball in the hands of C.J. Harris and Travis McKie earlier on than they have in games past. Hopefully the upperclassmen will take it on themselves to get it going a little earlier than the games against William and Mary and Mercer.
Wake will go to the same starting lineup that they had against William and Mary. I'm a little surprised that Aaron Rountree won't get a spot start after his efforts on Friday propelled the Deacs emotionally to the comeback victory. I would think that his energy may provide Wake a better start than they have had so far this year.
One of the best matchups on the court will be the 5-9 freshman PG Benny Parker going up against the 6-3 freshman PG Codi Miller-McIntyre. While Parker may be quicker than CMM, I would expect Codi to use his size to bully Parker and get him into foul trouble early on. Since Parker plays 68% of the minutes for the Huskers, Tim Miles squad would be a bit of trouble in that realm.
On a coaching note, Jeff Bzdelik and Tim Miles know each other back from their Colorado coaching days, where Coach Bzdelik was a head coach at the Colorado Buffaloes and Tim Miles was a coach at the Colorado State Rams.
Miles is in his first year coaching at Nebraska after leaving Colorado State in the off-season after leading the Rams to a 20-12 record last year.
Projected Wake Forest Starting Lineup
PG- Codi Miller-McIntyre
SG- C.J. Harris
SF- Travis McKie
PF- Tyler Cavanaugh
C- Devin Thomas
Projected Nebraska Starting Lineup
PG- Benny Parker
SG- Ray Gallegos
SF- Dylan Talley
PF- David Rivers
C- Brandon Ubel
KenPom predicts a 66-61 Wake Forest victory and gives them a 68% chance of winning their third straight game in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge