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Wake Forest's Game Against North Carolina State is a "Must-Win"

Sunday's contest is of vital importance.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons were done no favors by the ACC schedule makers. The Deacs opened up conference play with a trip to Lousiville, and a home contest against Duke. Wake played good basketball for probably 65 of the 80 total minutes, but still walked away with an 0-2 record in league play. Now, the Demon Deacons sit at 9-5, and host a Sunday night contest against in-state rival North Carolina State, who is also 0-2 in league play. This game is going to be a battle, and it is a must-win for both sides.

If Wake Forest wants to make the NCAA Tournament, then they simply have to beat State on Sunday. I don't think that's hyperbole, I just believe that's realistic. Wake is only going to be favored in about six of their ACC games this season, so they absolutely cannot afford to drop one of those opportunities. State really just plays seven players, so Wake should theoretically be able to wear them out with depth. Still, those seven players have a lot of talent.

After the contest against State, Wake has a road trip to Virginia Tech, followed by a home game against Syracuse. Wake's postseason chances really hinge on how well the Deacs can perform over the next three games. They certainly have to win at least two, and really they have to win all of them. After that stretch they will face a brutal four-game stretch that includes road trips to UNC, Miami, and Notre Dame, as well as a home contest against Virginia. The schedule gets easier after that, but Wake has to boost their win total to give them some hope at what will be the halfway point of the ACC schedule.

North Carolina State has a similar schedule. After Wake, they have a home contest against Florida State, then road trips to UNC and Pittsburgh, followed by a home game against Duke. They see the schedule, and they also realize the importance of Sunday's contest. It is an NCAA Tournament elimination game. By no means does a win assure a team a spot in the Big Dance, but a loss makes the uphill climb extremely difficult.

If Wake can somehow get to an 8-10 record in league play, that will put them at 17-13 headed into the ACC Tournament. That's doable, and I believe that's an NCAA Tournament team given the victories Wake earned in non-conference play, as well as the overall strength of the ACC. The league currently has 7 of the top 29 teams in the country according to KenPom. The Deacs still have everything in front of them, but they need a win on Sunday night. If you can make it out to the Joel and support the Deacs on Sunday, I would strongly encourage you to do so. Go Deacs!