The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-2) host a very formidable opponent tonight in the #6 Xavier Musketeers (11-0). Xavier has not won a game by fewer than 9 points all season, and are outscoring their opponents by nearly 19 points per game. This game will be the fifth in the Skip Prosser Classic. The series is named after the man who had an excellent record at both schools, but tragically passed away on July 26, 2007. Who will win this year's version of the classic?
Xavier is an excellent basketball team, who primarily runs a 4-out offense. This set could potentially cause a lot of problems for the Demon Deacons when they are on the defensive end. Trevon Bluiett, who is one of the two best players on the team, primarily plays at the "4" spot. He makes more than 2 three pointers per game, but also attempts 6 field goals from inside the arc each game. This is problematic if Dinos Mitoglou is on him, as his defense has been suspect this season, particularly in pick-and-roll situations. On the flip side, Mitoglou's length and height could alter Bluiett's shot from the outside. It could also allow Dinos to post up, and get off some clean shots inside. To me, this is the most fascinating matchup in tonight's contest.
Xavier has the 15th most efficient offense in the country. They don't achieve this with prolific shooting. They do it by being an excellent rebounding team. Jalen Reynolds, Trevon Bluiett, and James Farr are all very strong rebounders. These three allow them to be the 17th best offensive rebounding team in the country. They also do a nice job of limiting turnovers, and an excellent job of getting to the charity stripe. Wake has the potential to be a strong defensive rebounding team, but right now they are just the 140th best defensive rebounding team in the country. If Wake Forest is going to win tonight, then they have to limit Xavier's second-chance opportunities.
Wake Forest's offense is also predicated on grabbing offensive rebounds and getting to the foul line. Devin Thomas, Dinos Mitoglou, Greg McClinton, John Collins, and Doral Moore have all been above average offensive rebounders when they have been on the court. Xavier is the 2nd best defensive rebounding team in the country, so this area of the game will go a long way in determining if Wake Forest will hang in this contest. Wake should be able to get to the foul line against Xavier. In this game, however, they'll have to convert on those opportunities once they get there.
Devin Thomas had his worst game of the year against Coastal Carolina. Tonight he will face off against Jalen Reynolds, who is an excellent big man. Devin has played very well against excellent big men in the past, including Jahlil Okafor, Tony Parker, and Montrezl Harrell.
Wake Forest's guard play will have to be better in this contest. On the year they have turned the ball over on nearly 20% of their possessions, which is 240th nationally. Bryant Crawford has to eliminate his handful of out-of-control plays each game, and Codi Miller-McIntyre needs to continue to improve. Mitchell Wilbekin and Cornelius Hudson are going to have to knock down early threes and get the home crowd into it. That's going to be essential, as Xavier has the 10th best defensive efficiency in the country.
I'm very excited to watch tonight's game and see how Wake Forest stacks up against one of the best teams in the country.