The Wake Forest Demon Deacons will face the UCLA Bruins later tonight to determine who wins third place in the Maui Invitational. The Demon Deacons defeated #13 Indiana 82-78 on Monday, but lost 86-64 to #19 Vanderbilt on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Bruins defeated UNLV by a score of 77-75 in the opening round, before losing to #5 Kansas 92-73. How do the two teams match up?
The Bruins have had an up-and-down year already just five games in the season. They opened up their season with a loss to Monmouth in overtime at Pauley Pavilion. Two days later they fought off another upset minded team in Cal Poly, before taking care of Pepperdine in a Maui warmup.
Wake Forest is coming off its worst offensive performance of the year by far, notching just a 93 adjusted offensive efficiency against the top 20 defense of Vanderbilt. The defense wasn't much better, allowing the Commodores to shoot an adjusted 54.8% eFG% from the field, and basically let big man Damian Jones do whatever he wanted to in the paint.
UCLA is a much better matchup for Wake Forest than Vanderbilt was. The Bruins do not have the as much size or length on the interior as Vandy does, and they do not have the same shooting ability. They shoot just 32.5% from deep. While this percentage is higher than what Wake Forest shoots, it's fair to say that they are not a lights out shooting team. Wake Forest has been reckless with the ball at times, but UCLA actually has a higher turnover rate than the Deacs. They're also poor at forcing turnovers. Wake is one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers, so it will be worth watching to see if the Deacs can make a sloppy team turn the ball over.
Neither of these teams is deep. Both are bottom 25 nationally in bench minutes, but it has been suggested that Wake Forest's Cornelius Hudson, and possibly Rondale Watson, will return to action against the Bruins. Hudson had a very strong freshman campaign, and it's perhaps most important because walk-on Trent VanHorn has been playing 25 minutes per contest. Hudson should provide a tremendous boost to this Deacons team
The most popular lineup for the Bruins according to KenPomeroy (which the play approximately 73% of the time) is:
PG- Bryce Alford
SG- Aaron Holida
SF- Isaac Hamilton
PF- Tony Parker
C- Thomas Welsh
Therefore, it is assumed that UCLA's starting lineup will consist of Bryce Alford, Aaron Holiday, Isaac Hamilton, Tony Parker, and Thomas Welsh.
Alford is the son of head coach Steve Alford, who is in his third season with the Bruins. They have made the Sweet 16 during Alford's first two seasons. Bryce Alford plays 35+ minutes per game, and does a nice job of distributing the rock, and getting to the charity stripe. Once he's at the line, he connects 87% of the time. His effective field goal percentage is just 46%, so it will be critical to not let him get his points at the foul line.
Coach Alford has a sophomore big man in Jonah Bolden, and then two freshmen in Alex Olesinski and Prince Ali to round out the eight-man rotation. Bolded plays 41% of the minutes, while Olesinski and Ali play 28% and 36% respectively.
Alford's backcourt mate is freshman Aaron Holiday. Like Alford, Holiday is good at getting to the foul line and making free throws. He has also made 7 of 18 (39%) of his threes on the season. He's only 6'1", so Mitchell Wilbekin should not be at a disadvantage due to size. On the wing will be Isaac Hamilton, who has had a very poor start to the season. He is turnover prone, inefficient, and not a very good shooter. He's 6'5", so with Hudson back, his size should not be an issue.
UCLA's frontcourt is very formidable. It features Tony Parker, who I believe holds the world record for longest college announcement of all-time, and Thomas Welsh. Parker is a big boy at 6'9" 260 pounds. He's also a very good offensive rebounder, and good at getting to the foul line. He's a poor free throw shooter, but he shoots over 50% from the field. Welsh is by far the most efficient player on the roster. He has an offensive rating of 131.4, and that's because he shoots better than 65% from the floor. He's a very good shot blocker, and he can also crash the boards.
Wake's Devin Thomas, John Collins, and Dinos Mitoglou should be able to rebound inside against UCLA, but it's going to be a 40-minute battle. Dinos and Wilbekin are going to have to do a much better job at perimeter shooting than they did against Vanderbilt. They went a combined 1-9, and that simply is not going to get it done.
This is probably going to be a sloppy game due to it being each team's third game in three days, and both teams already being turnover prone. UCLA will most likely be favored in this contest, but this is a game that Wake Forest can absolutely win. The Deacs have to do a better job of communicating on screens, and I think they will have more focus in tonight's game.
The action will begin at 7:30 p.m. eastern on ESPN2. As always, go Deacs!