ACC play opens tomorrow for four more teams as Florida State travels to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech in the first game while N.C. State makes the trip down I-40 to take on the Demon Deacons in the nightcap. This is about as much of a must-win game that an ACC opener can be for Wake Forest as they face one of the teams predicted to finish in the bottom of the standings at home. Click through for the details...
What: N.C. State Wolfpack @ Wake Forest
When: 7:45 pm
Where: Fox Sports Net (National)
Spread: Wake -9.5
The Wolfpack's attack centers around two forwards, Dennis Horner and Tracy Smith. Horner has finally stepped up this season and is averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds per game for State. However, it is the emergence of Tracy Smith that has their fans excited, as he is putting up an impressive 18 points and 9 rebounds per game. Smith does most of his work with his back to the basket and on put-backs, so it will be up to Chas McFarland, Tony Woods and David Weaver to muscle him up and make sure his night is a long one in Winston-Salem.
The Pack's backcourt play relies strongly on Javier Gonzalez, who is averaging 10 points per game and distributing the ball very effectively with 6.4 assists per game. He is also shooting 35% from three-point range, so it will be important for Ish Smith to keep an eye on him as he hovers around the arc. Gonzalez is joined by C.J. Williams, Julius Mays and Scott Wood, all whom have not been particularly productive so far this season. It will be important for the Deacs to keep an eye on Wood, who was known as a big time three-point shooter in high school, but has shot poorly thus far at State (21.1%). Seeing him break out of his slump at Wake would be damaging to the Deacs' hopes of getting off to a 1-0 start going into the new year.
On the other end of the floor, Wake will most likely look to take advantage of Ish Smith's quickness against the N.C. State guards and establish Al-Farouq Aminu from close range. Aminu started the season on the wing, but has moved to the power forward spot in the starting lineup to give C.J. Harris an opportunity to help Wake on the offensive end. If Aminu can be effective without forcing the issue while cleaning up on the boards, it may get Tracy Smith in foul trouble as well.
It would also serve Wake well to get the ball to Chas McFarland on the blocks. He has been disappointing on offense thus far this season, so getting him off to a good start in ACC play would be a big bonus for Dino Gaudio's club. However, is Sidney Lowe decides to play zone to offset Wake's height advantage, look for Harris, Ari Stewart and Gary Clark to find the open spaces on the floor and wait for a kickout from Smith.
N.C. State has a very impressive victory this season on the road at Marquette, so if Wake does not come ready to play it could be a rough night. Hopefully, State's narrow victory over Elon (Wake beat them by 40), does not make the Demon Deacs overconfident.
Prediction: N.C. State 68 - Wake Forest 79