The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-6,0-1) will host the #5 Louisville Cardinals (12-1,0-0) on Sunday in Louisville's ACC debut. Louisville's lone loss on the season came against Kentucky, who is the odds on favorite to win the national title this season. Many are chalking this game up to be a loss for the Demon Deacons. While that's certainly probable, Ken Pomeroy currently projects that Wake Forest will only lose by 9 points (69-60) and has a 16% chance of winning. What has to go right for Wake Forest in that 16%? I take a look at Louisville's weaknesses.
Force Louisville to Settle for Threes
Louisville has an above average offense, as they have an offensive efficiency of 104.9, but they don't achieve that number with their perimeter shooting. Louisville has made just 29.2% of their 3-pointers this season, which is 298th in the country. Of players with at least 10 attempts, Terry Rozier is their best outside shooter. Rozier is a stud (and is currently 7th in Ken Pomeroy's player of the year standings) but is shooting just 34% from beyond the arc. No one else on the team shoots above 30% from threes. Additionally, Montrezl Harrell has made just 4-21 3's on the season. If Wake can tempt him to shoot from outside, that's a win for the defense. Harrell is shooting 68% from 2's, so Wake wants him as far away from the basket as possible.
Win the Rebounding Battle
It's an obvious and fundamental part of the game, but Wake Forest may actually have an advantage in this area. Louisville is just slightly above average at defensive rebounding, while Wake is a very good offensive rebounding team. The battle on the opposite end may be even more important, however, as Louisville is 19th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, while Wake Forest is 3rd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. Louisville missing threes doesn't hurt them nearly as much if they secure the offensive rebound. Wake Forest must especially take advantage of those situations and limit Louisville to one shot per possession.
Limit Turnovers/Beat the Press for Easy Baskets
For Wake Forest to win this game, they simply have to limit their turnovers and not allow Louisville to get easy buckets after their press. Louisville forces opponents to turn the ball over on 26.9% of possessions, which is 5th nationally. Meanwhile, Wake Forest is 259th nationally at taking care of the basketball. This is clearly the biggest cause for concern for the Wake Forest coaching staff headed into the game.
Below is an example of Wake beating Princeton's press. Princeton is nowhere near the defensive team that Louisville is, but this is an example of how to take advantage of a press and generate an excellent scoring opportunity. Codi Miller-McIntyre has only had 6 total turnovers over his past three games. If he can limit his turnovers to 3 or fewer against Louisville, I think Danny Manning will absolutely take his chances. The Cardinals allow opponents to have an effective field goal percentage of just 39.5%, which means Wake Forest wants to limit the number of times they must use their half court offense against the Cardinals.
Earlier in the season Wake greatly struggled against Arkansas' pressure. In that game, Wake turned it over on 28% of their possessions. If the Deacs do what they did below against Louisville, then it will almost assuredly be a blowout in Louisville's favor. Turnovers against presses typically lead to layups and dunks for the pressing team. The play below is a prime example of what can go wrong when a team turns the ball over against a press.
I'm not confident headed into this game, but Louisville is not without flaws. If Wake Forest can limit its turnovers, then they will deny Louisville the opportunity to get easy transition buckets, as well as make them have to rely more on their perimeter shooting in the half court. Additionally, if Wake can continue its improved ball movement and outside shooting, then they will have a chance. Sunday's game will be a great litmus test for the team. I hope to see you all at the Joel at 8 p.m. Go Deacs!