The Wake Forest Demon Deacons will look to bounce back from a crushing defeat to the Virginia Cavaliers when they take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday afternoon in South Bend, Indiana. Can Wake Forest finally win an ACC road game? Let's take a look at how the Deacs match up against the Irish.
Some positive news for Wake Forest is that Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame's leading scorer, will probably miss the contest. The 6'1" junior is a threat to score from anywhere on the court, is the team's floor general, and is very efficient despite a high usage rate. Without him, Notre Dame lost by 15 points at Syracuse. It's just a one game sample size, but Notre Dame clearly looked like a different team without Jackson.
Notre Dame has the most efficient offense in the country. They spread the floor, take very smart shots, and rarely turn the ball over. They also play at one of the slowest paces in the country, and spend 19.1 seconds per offensive possession. The team that Wake Forest will face on Sunday (probably) won't look like that team, but they still have a number of players who are serious threats on the offensive end. In addition to Jackson, they have three players who play at least 24 minutes and have offensive ratings above 120. Those players are Bonzie Colson, Steve Vasturia, and V.J. Beachem. The good news is that Notre Dame is similar to Virginia in the sense that they play a more methodical style of basketball. Wake Forest performed admirably on the defensive end for 39 minutes against Virginia. Can that trend continue?
Beachem is especially problematic due to the mismatches he can create. He's 6'8", but has attempted 112 three-pointers on the season, and has made an impressive 44% of them. I'm not sure how we will defend him. Colson is built like a bull. He's just 6'5", but rebounds at a very high rate, blocks shots, gets to the foul line, and is making 58% of his shots from inside the arc. Vasturia is 6'5" and that allows him to shoot over many smaller defenders. As a result, he has made 40% of his three's and 55% of his two's. Notre Dame is also anchored inside by Zach Auguste. He's an outstanding rebounder and shot blocker. He also shoots a high percentage and gets to the charity stripe.
So far it sounds like Notre Dame is the best team in the country, but the problem is that they are a very poor defensive team. I know we all think that Wake Forest is bad defensively, and Wake is for the most part, but Wake is nearly 80 spots better than Notre Dame in Ken Pom at adjusted defensive efficiency. The Irish rarely force turnovers, and opponents have made nearly 40% of their three's. Notre Dame does do a nice job of blocking shots and keeping opponents from getting to the foul line.
Wake Forest is clearly not a very proficient three-point shooting team, so it will be interesting to see how the Deacs look to attack the Irish. They were far more patient against Virginia, so I hope to see some of that continue. Dinos Mitoglou could potentially have a size advantage, so I'd like to see him get some touches closer to the basket.
Tune it at 1 p.m. to see if the Deacs can snap the losing streak, and come home from Indiana with a conference road win. As always, go Deacs!