It's probably an impossible task to top the hard-hitting analysis that Bart provided in his "Hoos that Pokémon?" piece, but I"ll try my best. These two teams met just 11 days ago when #2 Virginia defeated Wake Forest 61-60 in Charlottesville. Virginia opened up as a 9.5 point favorite, but has not beaten Wake Forest in Winston-Salem since the 2000-2001 season (when Pokémon was still popular).
We know that Justin Anderson will miss this game due to a fractured finger, but Injuries could play am even bigger factor in this contest if point guard London Perrantes cannot go due to a mild concussion and broken nose suffered in a nasty collision with teammate Malcolm Brogdon against FSU. While Perrantes only averages 5.9 points per game, he is the team's leader in assists and rarely turns the ball over. He also plays more than 32 minutes per game, and Virginia lacks depth at the point guard position.
In the last meeting, Dinos Mitoglou, Codi Miller-McIntyre, and Cornelius Hudson combined for 43 of the team's 60 points. Junior Devin Thomas finished with just 3 points on zero field goal attempts, though most of this had to do with the design of Virginia's defense. If Wake Forest is going to win this game, then they are going to need to continue to make perimeter shots like they did the last time. Wake Forest went 10-24 (42%) from deep, but were just 12-22 (55%) from the charity stripe. Free throws aren't "free," but the foul line the only place on the court where Virginia cannot use their patented Pack-Line defense. Wake did a great job of getting to the line in the last contest, but they must convert. Additionally, if Perrantes is out, then that should mean Codi Miller-McIntyre gets a handful of penetration opportunities, which could lead to easy buckets for Wake.
Virginia is an excellent defensive rebounding team, but Wake is strong on the offensive glass. If initial shots aren't falling, then Wake has to crash. Those put-back opportunities could be some of the best looks that Wake gets all night.
On the defensive end, Wake Forest's main focus will be on Anthony Gill. Gill averages 11 points and 7 rebounds per contest, while shooting 57% from the field. Another point of emphasis will be contesting 3-point shots. Virginia has struggled from deep as of late, but will be a nightmare to defend if they can consistently hit threes. Wake was able to hold UVA to just 2-12 from deep in the last contest. The problem was Virginia made 54% of their two-point field goal attempts. Wake's guards will have to do a better job of denying initial penetration, which forces our bigs to rotate and leave their man open under the basket.
Can Wake win this game? Absolutely. This is a tremendous opportunity for the team and for the program. I won't make an official prediction, but I feel that Wake matches up well against Virginia, especially with Virginia's potentially limited roster. UVA has been knocked down over their past several games, but they have not been knocked out. Can Wake deliver a strong enough offensive performance on Wednesday night to emerge victorious? Snow or no snow, I'll be at the Joel to find out. Go Deacs!