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Non-conference home stretch

It's always cliched to say "these are the biggest games... yadda yadda" but for the Demon Deacons, the next two games are going to play a big role in gauging where exactly this team is. Both Richmond and Xavier are possible tournament teams, and although the road stretch of Gonzaga and Purdue were tougher on the surface, the combo from the Spiders and the Muskateers may prove to be more difficult matchups at home.

Both Richmond and Xavier are in the top 50 in KenPom. X's best win is against 59 Cincinnati, and Richmond holds wins over Mississippi State (9), Missouri (17), Old Dominion (7) and Florida (65). The two schools have top-50 defenses in efficiency. Needless to say, these are talented clubs.

Xavier just might be the best four loss team in the country. Their losses have come at the hands of Marquette (24), Baylor (77), Kansas State (12) and Butler (34). The Butler game was pretty much stolen from them, but it is still a check in the L column. Despite the record, Xavier is a very balanced team.

They are 39th in offensive efficiency and shoot almost 42% from deep. They also sport a great turnover% (17.3). Defensively, they don't get a ton of pressure on other teams, with a low defensive turnover% and a low steal%, but they have been holding teams to 41.5% shooting on 2s. 

They are not a great offensive rebounding team, despite being 47th in effective height, so this could give Wake a chance to use their rebounding abilities on both ends of the floor. They are also prone to the block--something we know the Deacs are good at as well.

As for Richmond, they are a spectacular defensive team, at 23rd in defensive efficiency and 29th in defensive eFG%. They simultaneously take care of the basketball while forcing turnovers on the other end. Defensively, they can also block and steal the ball at a high rate and are a big team, with an effective height of +3.3. On the flip side, this is not a very deep team, as they only have 7 players who log at least 10 minutes a game.

Both of these games will be critical to the rest of the Wake Forest season. The Demon Deacons are set in a solid 35th in the Pomeroy ratings and have a 9-2 record. At the beginning of the year I predicted that Wake would be 11-2 coming into the Miami game, and if they win these two, the prediction will be accurate (although I definintely did not see the W&M loss coming).

Coming out of these last two games with victories will give Wake three very good non-conference wins, as well as two more that could end up looking decent at the end of the year (Oral Roberts and UNC-W). It will also give the team a lot of confidence against tough competition, something we saw a bit of after the Gonzaga win.

Regardless, Wake should be up for these games and they will have to cut down on the sloppy play that has plagued them against some of the lesser competition recently.