The basketball season continues tonight at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons host the Presbyterian Blue Hose. Presbyterian, a member of the Big South Conference, will make the trip to Winston-Salem after a dreadful 2010-11 campaign in which they finished 8-24.
Greg Nibert returns for his 24th season as the leader of the Blue Hose. Last season the Hose averaged 62.1 points per game along with a pedestrian offensive rating of 94.1. The Hose were also well below the D-1 average when it came to turning the ball over (20.8%) and producing offensive rebounds (22.7%). I expect much of the same this season as Presbyterian lost two of their top 3 scorers in Khalid Mutakabbar (15.7) and Joshua Clyburn (10).
If the Hose are going to have any success, it is going to depend heavily on junior guard Jordan "All Falls" Downing. Downing, a transfer from Davidson, shot 43% from behind the arc last season for the Hose. Downing's hot hand has carried over this season, as he dropped 22 points and shot 40% from deep against a very strong Georgia Tech squad. The Deacs should watch out for junior big man Truss Williams, who is coming off a career night in which he scored 20 points to go along with 14 rebounds. Presbyterian also has 7'0 center Jake Campbell, who some regard as the second coming of Andre the Giant. I don't really expect Campbell to make an impact, but I did want to make an Andre the Giant reference.
On Tuesday, the Deacs were able to exert their dominance in a 98-71 win against Virginia Military Institute. Wake's ability to turn rebounds into quick transition buckets was the biggest difference in this game. The Deacs were led, once again, by Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre each of which boast an offensive efficiency rating of 130.3! Thomas was a constant threat on both ends of the court as he dropped 20-points in addition to a career high 17 boards. Miller-McIntyre has struck fire as he follows up his 20-point game with a career high 23-points, while also dishing out 7 assists and 6 rebounds. The Deacs continued their dominance in the paint, outscoring the Keydets 58-18, and dominated the glass 57-37.
Throughout the first two games the Deacs perimeter defense has been spotty. Wake needs to make quicker rotations to limit open looks and do a much better job at boxing out. I would like to see better rebounding from the guards, as many second chance opportunities have resulted from long rebounds on three-point attempts. Wake has had a tremendous size advantage against its three opponents, however this will not be case once conference play begins. Also, free throws guys come on (67.5%).
The Deacs' 27-point win is the 2nd largest point differential in the Bzdelik era, and fans hope this trend continues Friday night. Presbyterian is coming off a 14-point loss to the Citadel in which they gave up 33-points from deep, so look for Coron Williams to get plenty of looks. Presbyterian is a small team that plays at a slow tempo (320th), and I expect them to work the shot clock in an attempt to limit possessions. This is a strategy that has worked for Coach Nibert throughout his tenure, the most notable occasion being a 66-64 win over the Deacs in 2010-11.
I think now is a perfect time to play Presbyterian, we know that Wake can get out and run in transition but I want to see the Deacs play in a low tempo game. Madison Jones is going to be a key player, as he continues to be one of the most efficient offensive players on this Deacon squad (31.5 assist rate). If the Hose are able to limit possessions look for a big game from Travis McKie, as he has been one of Wakes biggest contributors in half-court sets. I think Presbyterian's tempo will cause some problems early but I expect Wake to force turnovers and make the proper adjustments on defense.
Wake Forest 86
It's Friday so come out and cheer on the Deacs with us!