The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are fresh off of an 82-78 victory over the #13 Indiana Hoosiers, but the Deacs face another top 25 opponent on Tuesday. That opponent is the #19 Vanderbilt Commodores, who enter the game with a 4-0 record. They dismantled St. John's 92-55 earlier on Monday, so their starters should be well-rested. How do the team's match up?
In full disclosure, I'm currently in the MBA program at Vanderbilt. I graduated from Wake in 2012, but now I'm back in school. I've seen Vanderbilt play in-person two times, so hopefully I can add some sort of #analysis.
Vanderbilt is a very good team both offensively and defensively. According to Ken Pomeroy's statistics, they have both the 18th best offense and defense in the country, in terms of efficiency. In their season opener against Austin Peay they went up 21-0. That's a football score, and that's actually a hotter start than the Vanderbilt football team had earlier this year when they faced Austin Peay. The Dores briefly found themselves trailing 7-3 in the 2nd quarter before ultimately winning 47-7. But I digress.
Vanderbilt features an excellent starting five. Center Damian Jones has gotten a lot of notoriety in the preseason, and has had a strong first four games. He is averaging 11.7 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. He is doing all of this in just 23 minutes of action per contest. Their front line also features forward Luke Kornet. Kornet is 7'1" and very skilled. He blocks shots, and grab rebounds. He has a good shot, but for some reason is 0-12 from beyond the arc. Still, he has made 68% of his shots inside the arc.
Perhaps their best player, however, is Wade Baldwin IV. He's their leading scorer at 14.7 points per game, He has made more than 40% of his three point attempts, and is the best creator they have on the team. He's fast in the open court, and it will be critical for Wake Forest to stop him in transition.
Vandy also features a nice pair of wings in Riley LaChance and Matthew Fisher-Davis. Matthew Fisher-Davis' name sound familiar. Wake Forest recruited him when he was in high school, and he even took an official visit to Wake. LaChance made the SEC All-Freshman Team, which is damn good considering Kentucky and its Freshman Factory is in the same conference. He has knocked down 50% of his three pointers so far this season, and also has averaged more than 4 assists. Fisher-Davis averages about 9 points, and has made 40% of his threes.
Overall, Vandy has a very tall team, who has a lot of good shooters, but they are not deep. And while they are tall, I believe that Wake Forest's big men are tougher than Vandy's. This is evident in each team's respective rebounding rates.
Vanderbilt has excellent guard play. They rarely turn the ball over, and they shoot very well from the outside. That said, they play at a slower pace, so if Wake can dictate tempo, then perhaps that will lead to more Vanderbilt turnovers. The Deacs are going to have to rely on individual, man-to-man defense. Weakside defenders are not going to be able to come off of shooters. If Wake does, then Vanderbilt is going to find the open guy, and Vandy is probably going to make Wake pay. I also think that Wake is going to need to front the post, particularly when Vanderbilt tries to go hi-lo.
To win this game, Wake is going to have to win the rebounding by a considerable margin, and is going to have to do a better job of protecting the basketball. They are going to have to contest jumpers, and force Vanderbilt to put the ball on the floor and go three-to-two. Devin Thomas is probably going to have his shot blocked a few times against Vanderbilt. He has to be patient, keep his composure, and keep fighting.
You can catch all of the action beginning tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. eastern on ESPN. It should be another fun one.