The basketball season continues tonight at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons look to improve to 7-2 on the season. Wake returns home to take on the Tulane Green Wave after a tough loss to the Tennessee Volunteers in the 5th place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Tulane, a member of Conference USA, is 4-4 on the season and are led by Ed Conroy. Conroy is in this 4th season with the Wave and will have a lot of work ahead of him with 6 players transfering after the 2012-13 seasons. The biggest gaps left by the transfer are two First Team All-Conference USA players in forward Josh Davis (San Diego St.) and point guard Ricky Tarrant (Alabama).
Tulane is coming off a 102-72 loss to Southeast Missouri State and is averaging 72.9 points per game. The Wave are well below average when it comes to offensive efficiency (101.4), and their offense is predicated on getting into the lane and drawing contact. Despite being undersized, Tulane is one of the best in the country at getting to the free throw line (4th), and in fact points from the charity stripe make up 31.7% of their scoring (6th). The Wave have a three-headed monster in the back court, that are responsible for 77% of the teams points. Sophomore guard Louis Dabney leads the way scoring 20.5 points per game, while taking 33.4% of the teams shots (44th highest). Though Jonathan "Winter is Coming" Stark has taken no wife, and fathered no children he has played 95.1% of the minutes and is averaging 18.1 points per game. While Jay Hook, Tulane's most efficient player, is averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and gets to the free throw on 81.2% of his field goal attempts. Hook is also Tulane's biggest threat from deep as he is shooting 54.5% from behind the arc.
The Green Wave have struggled on the defensive end of the court as opponents are scoring 1.14 points per possession. Many of the Wave's defensive woes are due to their inability to limit the opponents effective field goals (58.3%) and force turnovers (17.3%). Wake Forest has been dominant in these categories, so look for Wake to control ball and see a lot of open looks. For the most part, Tulane runs a zone defense that has been largely ineffective at keeping opponents from shooting the 3-ball, where 35.5% of the points are being scored. If Tulane plays zone look for extra attention to be paid to Coron Williams, opening up shots for Codi Miller-McIntyre, Travis McKie and Tyler Cavanaugh who have shot 38.4% from deep in the last 3 games.
Tulane's approach reminds me of the games Wake has played against VMI and Jacksonville University. In each of these games, the opponent's guards were able to attack the basket and were able to slow down the tempo by drawing and committing fouls. Wake's struggles from the free throw line were magnified as they shot 68% and 64% and were unable to get out in transition as much as they would have liked. If Tulane takes this approach Devin Thomas will have an increased responsibility to guard the rim, and if he can stay out of foul he will get an opportunity at another double-double. Though Tulane plays a guard heavy line up they limit opponents offensive rebounds to 28.5%. I do expect this to change as Wake Forest has been very good at attacking the offensive glass (35%), getting significant contributions from Andre Washington and Bill Moto.
Overall, I think this will be a scrappy game and we will probably see it played at a relatively slow pace. I also hope to see an improvement at the foul line as the Deacs are shooting just 63%. I expect Wake to have success from long range, and look for Washington and Overton to continue to get time off of the bench. In the end I think the Deacs come out swinging and are able to put this game away midway through the second half.
Wake Forest 91