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Wake Forest vs. Villanova: Charleston Classic Semifinal Preview

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The Deacs have a big opportunity against the reigning national champions today.

NCAA Basketball: Lafayette at Villanova Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

ICYMI, the Deacs took care of business on Thursday afternoon against Conference USA opponent UTEP to advance to the semifinals of the Charleston Classic. Wake’s dominant performance was greeted with a victory by reigning national champions Villanova as well, creating the dream matchup for Danny Manning’s revamped Wake Forest squad later today. The game is a perfect example of a low risk, high reward opportunity, with few people expecting Wake to be able to top Jay Wright’s side that returns a lot of key pieces from their title season. Here are some stats and basic info to get you in the right mindset before tipoff.

Wake Forest:

Record: 3-0 (Radford, Bucknell, UTEP)

PPG: 92.3, OPPG: 71.3

Kenpom: 67

2015-2016 Returning Production: 60.5%

Villanova:

Record: 3-0 (Lafayette, @Purdue, Western Michigan)

PPG: 81.0, OPPG: 63.0

Kenpom: 2

2015-2016 Returning Production: 71.8%

Here are 3 things to know about Villanova before Friday’s matchup:

  1. Lost Stars: Much like Wake Forest, Villanova lost two of its biggest pieces from last season to graduation in the form of Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. The latter was the Wildcats’ leading rebounder and defensive post presence, while the former will forever be known as the guy who found the trailing Kris Jenkins to win the national title. Arcidiacono also led the team in assists in 2015-2016, but this year no Wildcats player has more than 9 total (Note: Wake has 3 players 10+).

2. Small Ball: One thing the Deacs will have in their favor on Friday is size against the Wildcats. Only one player above 6’7 featured in Villanova’s victory over Western Michigan (Darryl Reynolds) and he’s far from one of their top offensive contributors. If John Collins can find a way to get Reynolds in foul trouble early, Wake should be able to win the rebounding battle at the end of the day. In fact, that is one category Western Michigan came out on top on in Thursday’s victory (+8).

3. Let it Fly: Villanova isn’t afraid of the long ball and they can back up their confidence too. Almost 50% of all of VU’s Field Goals taken on Thursday were 3 pointers, of which they connected on 39% of them. Kris Jenkins and Eric Paschall are the main guys who could potentially cause damage from behind the arc, but Phil Booth and Josh Hart also have a decent amount of attempts on the season as well. That being said, expect Danny Manning to shy away from experimenting too much with the zone this afternoon.

What to Expect:

Overall, it’s going to be a fairly fast paced game with a score that should reach the mid 80’s for both teams. Villanova is going to look to use the speed of its backcourt to beat their man and create openings for its experienced shooters, while Wake will likely take a similar game plan to Thursday’s 2nd half and pound the inside. With the way John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou are playing, the Deacs have to think that their front court is a major advantage and the true source to an upset victory.

Earning offensive rebounds and making sure that Villanova’s shooters don’t get 2nd opportunities is absolutely vital for Wake to pull this off. Villanova is going to take its 15-20 threes and hit close to 40% so limiting turnovers and easy fast break points is another key for Danny Manning’s squad. Bryant Crawford and Mitchell Wilbekin have done an excellent job protecting the basketball so far this year and nothing has hinted that this might change heading into the weekend’s games.

The Verdict: Wake seems to have enough talent on this team that they won’t need to play out of their minds to pick up the W, but they will still need to play extremely well. These are the types of games you hope guys like John Collins and Bryant Crawford show up for and put in takeover performances. Does a 4-0 start with a victory over #3 get the Deacs back into the top 25? Possibly. Does it get people talking about Wake Forest basketball again even for brief moment? Absolutely. Let’s see what we’re made of this weekend.