Wednesday's match up is between two teams who are undefeated in conference play, as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons travel to Virginia to take on the Cavaliers. Wake Forest is coming off their biggest win of the year, as they upset #19 North Carolina at the Joel on Sunday.
Each of the team previews will focus on Dean Oliver's four factors of basketball.
Effective Field Goal %
Offensively, Virginia and Wake Forest have average eFG%'s of 48.7% and 49.8%, respectively. Despite having some solid three point shooters in Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon the Cavs are shooting just 33.6% from deep, which accounts for only 23.9% of their total points (229th). The Cavs are also shooting a below average amount of their field goals from deep (31%). Mediocre three point shooting really hurts eFG% when a team also struggles from inside the arc, as Virginia does by shooting a below average 48%.
Both teams have been exceptional on the defensive side of the court. Virginia's effective height allows them to block and alter shots at a high rate. The Cavaliers are blocking shots on 12.7% of possessions and have a dominant shot blocker in Mike Tobey, who blocks shots on 8.7% of opponents' two point field goal attempts. Opponents are also shooting a meager 40% from inside the arc against the Cavs, which is the 6th lowest rate in the country. Wake Forest holds opponents eFG% to 43.5% which is 20th in the country. The Deacs have been able to accomplish this by limiting scoring from deep and hold opponents to low percentages inside.
Despite playing at one of the slowest tempos in college basketball Virginia turns the ball over on nearly 1/5th of their possessions. The Cavaliers give up steals on 10% of their possessions and the back court of Brogdon, Harris and Justin Anderson have a combined turnover rate near 50%. Wake Forest consistently plays at a much faster tempo yet only turns the ball over on 17.2% of their possessions, so look for there to be a struggle to control the pace.
Defensively, Virginia forces turnovers on 19.5% of possessions. Virginia has long guards who will look to get their hands in between passing lanes so Wake will need to take care of the basketball. Wake Forest hasn't forced a ton of turnovers, but they forced Carolina to commit 17 so look for this to be an emphasis.
Offensive/Defensive Rebounding %
Both teams do a very good job rebounding the basketball and the winner of this battle could go a long way in determining who moves to 2-0. Virginia is a very good offensive rebounding team, as they capitalize on 36% of their opportunities (64th). Despite a poor rebounding performance against Carolina, Wake Forest still limits offensive rebounds to a mere 28.3% (54th).
Virginia is also one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country as they give up offensive rebounds on just 25.4% of opportunities (11th). The match up between Devin Thomas and Mike Tobey should be a war-zone. Thomas is one of the best defensive rebounders in the country, as he collects 25.7% (32nd) of them, while Tobey collects offensive boards on 17% of opportunities (15th).
Free Throw Rate
Like Wake, Virginia does a good job at getting to the foul line (45.8%), but struggles from the charity stripe (hitting just 64.4%). Akil Mitchell spends more time at the line (78.1%) than Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Jingle All the Way" but only converts 45% of attempts. Wake would be wise to put a body on Mitchell and make him earn his points from the foul line.
Wake Forest also has a strong free throw rate of 48.1, but convert on just 61.6% of them, which is STILL the lowest percentage of any major conference team in the country. Wake also does a good job of keeping their opponents off of the foul line (34.4%), which is a very important if you struggle hitting your own free throws. Free throwing shooting has certainly been an issue, but when you shoot a lot more free throws than your opponent it can still be an asset.
I expect this game to be low tempo and I think baskets will be tough to come by. Virginia is a very good basketball team and they have the 5th best defense in the country for a reason. The Cavaliers have underperformed offensively so far this season so I wouldn't be surprised to see them finally knock down the shots from deep. If the Deacs are going to have a shot at pulling off the upset they need to shoot well from 3 and keep Virginia off of the offensive glass. Wake showed a lot of physical and mental toughness against Carolina and I hope that carries over. With that being said this is a road game, so no I don't like Wake's chances.
Wake Forest 56
Tune into Fox Sports Carolinas (Channels 508/1508 on Time Warner Cable) at 7pm to support the team and as always, go Deacs!
The game can also be seen on ESPN3/WatchESPN if you are out of market.