The Demon Deacons look to get back on the winning track following back-to-back losses when the Nicholls State Colonels come to Winston-Salem on Monday night. The Deacs were blown out by Arkansas and lost a close one on Friday night against Iona to fall to 2-2 in the young season. Despite streaks of poor play by Wake, the team is still coming together as new coach Danny Manning continues to tinker with lineups to find what works and what doesn't. Meanwhile the game against the Colonels presents a wonderful opportunity to get back on track and move back above .500 on the season.
Nicholls State enters the game ranked 319th in KenPom and at the present time is the worst team the Demon Deacons are slated to play all year. Head coach J.P. Piper is in his 11th season with the Colonels and has accrued a record of 111-184 in that time span. The Colonels are 0-2 this season with losses on the road to North Texas and UCLA by a combined 47 points. Fortunately for Nicholls State they still have time to turn the season around before conference play starts, but unfortunately are slated to finish well behind pre-season Southland favorites Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State.
Quite frankly this game should be a substantial mismatch and one which the Deacons handily win. Both teams like to push the ball as Nicholls State has the 26th fastest tempo compared with Wake Forest's 59th fastest so a multitude of points are expected. In these early season games lower majors who try to outpace stronger, more athletic teams generally struggle to keep up offensively and the Colonels should not be any different. Despite playing at a faster rate, Nicholls State has been generally dreadful on offense thus far ranking 325th in Sagarin with an abysmal 90.9 offensive rating (adjusted rate for strength of schedule played where 100 indicates the team is scoring one point per possession). The Colonels are shooting only 43.6% in effective field goal, good enough for 262nd in the nation, and are only 50% from the line, which ranks 346th. Only further compounding these problems are their inability to crash the boards with any effectiveness which prevents any second chance buckets.
With only one player on the roster over 6'7", freshman Liam Thomas who comes in at 6'10" and averages around 23.5 points per game, Wake should be able to dominate the post and establish an early inside out game. Devin Thomas should be able to get down to the low block with relative ease and continue his torrid start to the season where he is already averaging 17 and 13. Needless to say, the Colonels don't have anyone who can double the big man junior and I wholeheartedly expect him to face a double the second he touches it down low. If there is no game plan from the get go to double down, Thomas should take advantage early to get to the basket and force the defense to collapse allowing Devin to execute his solid interior passing game to find open looks. Essentially Wake can use tonight to work on their inside-out offense and look to get open perimeter looks with good ball movement to create better three point opportunities.
Junior Codi Miller-McIntyre should similarly be looking to have a bit of a breakout performance. Generally struggling over the last couple of games, Miller-McInytre has been forcing contested jumpers, looked a bit out of sync while handling the basketball, and hasn't been knocking down jumpers with any regularity. The Colonels should give him a chance to get his aggression back and try to create on his own to further open up the Demon Deacon offense.
Tonight's game marks the first of three home games in five days for Wake over the holiday week, each of which should be easy wins for the Demon Deacons. Honestly any loss to these teams would be pretty devastating since the best of the three teams is a 1-2 Mount St. Mary's team ranked 266th in KenPom. Wake, by contrast, is 107th and for tonight's game is projected to win 79-63. My prediction is very similar and I think Wake takes care of business 83-62 in a game that the Deacs stretch out close to 30 points at times in the second half.
If you are in Winston, the game tips at the Joel at 7 P.M. Locally Stan Cotten will have the call and is accessible to listen to for free out-of-market through an app called TuneIn which should be free. Similarly the game will be on ESPN3 and feel free to stop by Blogger So Dear for the game thread as there is certain to be discussion on the site about how our Demon Deacons are doing. As always, go Deacs!