Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik is seeking only his 4th road win with the Deacs in two+ years and it will prove to be a tall task against Chris Mooney's Richmond squad that is very difficult to beat in the Robins Center.
Last year in this match-up Richmond stormed out to a huge lead in the opening minutes of the second half before the Deacs got the final deficit down to 8 points in a 70-62 final.
The Spiders are coming off a "down" year at 16-16 after going 29-8 in 2010, but should have a better team this year as they return a lot of their critical players from last year. KenPom has predicted Richmond to finish the year 19-12 (9-7) in the Atlantic 10, which would put them 5th in their conference.
So far this year Coach Mooney has his team playing very well offensively at a 107.8 adjusted efficiency (1.08 points per possession), good enough for 45th in the country. Defensively they are a little worse rankings-wise, allowing an adjusted 97.1 efficiency (.97 ppp).
Their five wins have all come against teams 190 or worse in KenPom while their two losses have been blowouts at the hands of #11 Minnesota (by 15) and #30 Ohio (by 25).
Wake Forest is ranked 223rd in KenPom, with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 100.2 (1.00 ppp), 154th in the country. Defensively the Deacs are absolutely atrocious, ranking 287th in the NCAA with an appalling 105.4 adjusted defensive efficiency (1.05 ppp).
The Deacs have played a slightly tougher schedule just because the only team outside of the top 200 KenPom ranking so far this year was Radford at 281st.
Richmond prefers to run at a slower than average tempo with an adjusted 65.1 possessions per game. The Deacs come in at 68.3, which is above average.
Wake Forest will have great difficulty stopping Richmond offensively, as that is a mismatch of pretty large proportions statistically (45th vs. 287th).
The Spiders tend to rely heavily on three-pointers (ugh) and free throws for the majority of their points. They are shooting 36% from behind the three point line and 74% from the free throw line. They account for 33% and 25% respectively on the overall point totals on the year (both well above average).
The three-point shooting for Richmond is a bad sign for the Deacs, as they are allowing opponents to shoot 35% from behind the arc (28% of points allowed this year).
Senior Darien Brothers alone is 17-33 from 3-pointers this year and ranks 80th in the country individually in true shooting percentage. He also takes 26% of the Spiders shots when he is on the floor so the Deacs will need to keep a close eye on the 6'3, 200 lb shooter.
6'6 junior Derrick Williams more than makes up for his height and has had a pretty successful start to the year in both scoring and rebounding. The interior defense of Wake Forest will need to have somepretty serious upgrades even though the height and size isn't what they have been facing in the past two games against Nebraska and William and Mary. He draws the 15th most fouls in the country so far, so Thomas, Rountree, Moto and Cav will need to be careful early on.
Finally 5'8 Kendall Anthony is scoring the ball well at the 2-guard, giving the Spiders a nasty 3-headed attack in their usual Princeton-style offense that features outstandingly quick v-cuts and backdoor passes.
Richmond goes with a pretty small, athletic look as their starters are: 5'8, 6'1, 6'3, 6'5 and 6'6. I'm not sure what to think about this but at least the Deacs won't get abused inside by some 300+ lb guy that has a three inch vertical.
An interesting note (and somewhat irrelevant really) is that Richmond has "allowed" opponents to shoot 76% from the free throw line (326th in the country). Maybe that will bode well for the Deacs and they will get some good vibes when they get to the line, which they do at the 7th best rate in the country.
If I recall correctly from last year's game, Chris Mooney prefers to switch on screens and really push them out. That means the Wake ball-handlers will need to be ready to find the open guy if a lane opens up, something that veterans Travis McKie and C.J. Harris have struggled with early on as their turnover numbers are much higher than their assist numbers.
Projected Richmond Starting Lineup
G- Cedrick Lindsay
G- Darien Brothers
F- Alonzo Nelson-Ododa
Projected Wake Forest Starting Lineup
G- Codi Miller-McIntyre
G- C.J. Harris
F- Travis McKie
F- Tyler Cavanaugh
C- Devin Thomas
I maintain that if the Deacs want to get off to a better start energy-wise then Aaron Rountree would be a better option at the 4. While it would take some of the offensive firepower in Cav out of the game early on, I think it would be more than made up for it on the defensive end and emotionally.
If the Deacs can get some stops early against the Spiders Princeton-style offense it will give them confidence that will translate on both ends of the court throughout the game.
KenPom has Richmond winning 78-63 and gives them a 90% (smh) chance of winning.
Wake Forest- 66
This is more of a hopeful prediction than anything. I think we'll cover the spread and play a reasonably good game by our current standards.