The Wake Forest Demon Deacons enter the ACC Tournament having lost consecutive games by at least 18 points. That's probably misleading, however, as they lost to the Duke Blue Devils by 43 points on Wednesday. The good news for Wake Forest fans is that they are facing a Virginia Tech team who has lost seven straight games and won just two ACC games all season. What will happen when the team's square off on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.? Let's take a look at each team's strengths and weaknesses.
Wake Forest's Advantages
Wake Forest has the 34th best effective height in the country, which is a metric that considers height of each player and number of minutes played. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, is ranked 251st. Devin Thomas is 6'9", Dinos Mitoglou is 6'10", Darius Leonard is 6'9", Aaron Rountree is 6'8", and Greg McClinton is 6'7". Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has just one player - Satchel Pierce, who is taller than 6'8". Pierce also plays only 14 minutes per contest. The Hokies may hustle, but they are 311th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 344th in defensive rebounding percentage. Ultimately, size matters. Wake looks to shoot the three ball, but I believe their game plan should be centered about feeding Devin Thomas on the interior and utilizing their size to create second chance opportunities. It may not be beautiful, but it will be effective.
Getting to the Foul Line
The Deacs are 58th nationally in free throw rate. While the Hokies have a good defensive free throw rate, they do a poor job of getting to the line themselves. This can be attributed to their lack of size. What's perhaps even more shocking to Wake Forest fans is that Virginia Tech is somehow worse than Wake Forest at free throws. They shoot 63.4% while Wake shoots 63.5%. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's not statistically significant. Still, I'll take it.
Virginia Tech's Advantages
Three Point Shooting
Virginia Tech does not do much well, but they can make it rain from the outside. The Hokies shoot 39.3% from deep, which is 18th in the country. Adam Smith, a.k.a. the Invisible Hand, is an assassin from deep and shoots 43%. Freshman Justin Bibbs has shot 44% from outside this season. They also have Ahmed HIll and Malik Mueller, who have each made at least 37% of their threes. Warning: do not play zone against this team. Syracuse did, and look at what happened to them! I'll see my way out.
If Virginia Tech is going to be successful in this contest, then they are going to need to make threes. This, has allowed them to have an offensive efficiency of 103.8 points/100 possessions. That is roughly equivalent to Wake's offense, but the teams reach that number in dramatically different ways.
The Hokies do a nice job of taking care of the rock. Adam Smith has the 14th best turnover rate in the country, and Devin Wilson has better than a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. The Deacs are below average at forcing turnovers, so I anticipate Tech being able to hold onto the ball in this one. The Hokies do get blocked a lot, so Wake could potentially force quasi turnovers if they block shots that lead to an outlet pass or at least possession of the ball. Wake has one of the worst offensive steal rates in the country, but fortunately Virginia Tech is awful at forcing steals, so that should limit Virginia Tech's transition opportunities.
On paper, Wake Forest should be able to pull away late and win this one. They do not have as many capable shooters as Virginia Tech, but they do have capable perimeter shooters in Greek Deac, Mitchell Wilbekin, Cornelius Hudson, and Darius Leonard. The battle on the glass and interior play should carry them in this one, but it's important not to panic if the Hokies hit early threes. That is one of our team's biggest problems. They tend to make the mistake of rushing a shot early in a possession and always trying to tie the game in one play.
Who are you all picking to win this one?
The winner of this game will face Miami on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. As always, go Deacs!