Preview: Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Wake Forest is coming off an embarrassing loss to Virginia. Can the Deacs bounce back against an excellent Pittsburgh team?

Before I get into the typical four factor analysis of Pittsburgh, I just want to see that Pitt is without question the most underrated team in the country. It's a travesty that this team is not in the Top 25 in either the ESPN or USA Today polls. Jamie Dixon is one of the best coaches in the country and does not get nearly the national recognition that he deserves. This team lacks elite talent, but they have elite coaching and because the players buy in they are an elite team. Anyone who appreciates well-coached basketball will love watching them play. It may look somewhat ugly, but it's also beautiful.

Thanks for indulging me, now it's time to breakdown the teams.

Effective Field Goal %

Offensively, this is a "weakness" for Pittsburgh, but they still have a decent eFG% of 52.8%, which is 59th nationally. They will be squaring off against a Wake Forest team which is 28th nationally in eFG% defense at 44.3%. Wake Forest allowed Virginia to have an eFG% of 56.7%,so this is something that needs to be a strength for the Demon Deacons if they are to have a chance in this game.

On the defensive end, Pittsburgh is tied with Wake Forest and also allows opponents an eFG% of just 44.3%. Wake Forest has an eFG% of 49.2% on the year (173rd nationally), but had an eFG% of just 39.6% against Virginia. If Wake Forest can just shoot their season average that would be a huge win. But again, these numbers are not adjusted for competition, so our season average will be a number to monitor to see if it drops as competition rises.

Turnover %

Another sign of a well-coached team is the ability to maintain possession of the basketball, and Pittsburgh does that very well as they only turn it over on 15.1% of offensive possessions, which is 26th nationally. Wake Forest is 257th nationally at forcing turnovers, so I would not expect the Deacs to generate many steals and transition opportunities in this one.

Wake's turnover offensive turnover rate is 17.5% (113th nationally) and that is a number that has been on the rise since the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. In fact, Wake has had a turnover percentage greater than 17.5% in each of their seven games since that tournament. Pittsburgh forces opponents to turn the ball over on nearly 20% of possessions, and I expect they'll be able to do just that against Wake.

Rebounding %

I fully expect Pittsburgh to dominate Wake Forest in the rebounding battle. This team is so physical and because of that they are 21st nationally in offensive rebounding % and 28th nationally in defensive rebounding %. Rebounding had been an area of strength for the Demon Deacons, but over the past three games (Xavier, North Carolina and UVA) this team has gotten exposed on the glass by more physical teams. Wake Forest has gotten out-rebounded by 48 over the past three games and I expect that trend to continue. Last season Wake Forest finished 294th nationally in offensive rebounding % and 125th in defensive rebounding %. Currently we are 141st and 56th, respectively, and I expect us to regress to the mean and to do it quickly.

Free Throw Rate

Pittsburgh is average when it comes to getting to the charity stripe and is 137th nationally. However, they are exceptional at not fouling and only allowing opponents to shoot free throws 30% as much as they allow field goal attempts, which is 21st nationally. Wake Forest has been strong in free throw rate and have the 60th best free throw rate in the nation. However, they were well under their season average in their losses to Xavier and Virginia, so we will see how that rate translates as competition continues to rise. Wake Forest did have a high free throw rate last season as well as against Kansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, so I feel like this is an area where Wake Forest is legitimately solid. Wake Forest must get to the line in this game because that's the only place on the court we will get an uncontested shot against this Pitt team.

Conclusion

I just can't envision a scenario in which Wake Forest emerges from this game as the victor. Pittsburgh is exceptionally well-coached and very physical. If Wake Forest wins, then it will be the most impressive win of the Bzdelik era and I'll be thrilled, but I don't see that happening and I anticipate Wake Forest will be 1-2 in the ACC after this one.

Prediction

Wake Forest 58

Pittsburgh 76

The game tips off on Saturday at noon and can be seen on CBS/Raycom (Channels 110/1110 on Time Warner Cable). As always, go Deacs!

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