Wake Forest heads north to take on Syracuse tonight at 8. The Orange come into the game 12-4 (3-0), with three ACC wins against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Florida State. The Deacs are 9-8, coming off a win over Georgia Tech 76-69.
The win over Florida State was extremely costly for the Orange, as they lost freshman Chris McCullough for the season due to an ACL injury. Rakeem Christmas has played 49% of the minutes at center (the same as McCullough), and will likely get more of his minutes there as opposed to the power forward position.
The most frequent lineup will now likely be: Kaleb Joseph, Trever Cooney, Michael Gbinije, Tyler Roberson, and Rakeem Christmas
As most people know, Syracuse runs a 2-3 zone exclusively. It has been the staple of Coach Jim Boeheim for many years and yielded a national championship in 2003.
Rob and Adam wrote a great article taking a look at attacking the 2-3 zone, so if you want to get some knowledge then I advise clicking the link above.
The defense ranks 12th in the country according to KenPom. They thrive on forcing long contested shots, as that shows with the 12th best eFG% (41.8%), and the 9th best 3-pt% defense (27.1%).
The Orange also rank top 15 nationally in block and steal percentage. The Deacs have managed to do a better job lately (GT game not withstanding) of protecting the ball, but this should be a pretty big challenge for the team tonight in protecting the ball and getting good shots.
Wake Forest has done a better job lately on offense, but it is still a pretty big mismatch against the Syracuse defense that held Georgia Tech to 45 points and Florida State to 57 on Sunday.
Cuse is also a good offensive rebounding team, ranking 32nd nationally. Wake Forest is the 2nd best defensive rebounding team in the country, and with McCullough ranking top 400 individually in offensive and defensive rebounding, that could be a significant loss for the Orange.
They don't rotate a lot of players, ranking 340th in the country in bench minutes at 22.1%. Wake Forest uses the 39th most bench minutes in the country with 39.1%, so it will be interesting to see how Coach Danny Manning utilizes that to his advantage.
Both teams have a lot of height at most spots on the floor, and I fully expect Coaching Manning to get the ball down low to Thomas to attack Christmas and Roberson early and often.
For some reason I am optimistic about this game. The Deacs have not beat an ACC team with a winning record since Clemson in 2009. Danny Manning has brought confidence to the team to play well not just in the Joel, but on the road as well.
I'm going out on a huge limb and saying that the Deacs steal one here from the Orange 68-65 in a pretty big upset.
Since I said that I am sure that the Orange will blow Wake out, so I apologize in advance. I just think that Wake catches Syracuse at an interesting time and it could be a game for the taking for the Deacs.