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Wake Forest Basketball: Coastal Carolina Preview

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The Deacs look to push to 5-1 on the year against their visitors from Conway, SC.

NCAA Basketball: Charleston Classic-Wake Forest vs Charleston Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (2-3, 202 Kenpom) are coming to Winston-Salem Wednesday night in a typical non-conference local matchup. Wake is coming off its second straight 3rd place early season tournament performance after going a respectable 2-1 in the Charleston Classic last week. CCU, on the other hand, just picked up its second win of the year against Southern Utah University (Yes, THE Southern Utah University) to move to 2-3 on the season. The Deacs are heavily favored heading into the matchup, but let’s take a closer look at CCU and what we should expect before tipoff tonight.

Usually in non-conference matchups this early in the season it’s tough to determine just how talented your opponent is due to a small sample size. However, Coastal Carolina has played a couple of bigger teams already that Wake can compare itself to quite well even though it is still early. College of Charleston is one of those teams, as the Cougars went on the road and beat CCU 71-64 in the second game of the season.

That’s good news for a Wake team that found a way to win by 17 in Charleston despite the referees’ best efforts to make it a nail-biter over the weekend. Looking at the game recap, C of C didn’t do anything spectacular to earn the W, but rather simply got up in the 3rd minute of the game and played consistent across the board for the next 37. If a team like Charleston can play very average and still win comfortably on the road against CCU, this really shouldn’t be too tall a task for the Deacs.

Other noteworthy games for the Chanticleers so far this year were at 17 point loss to Avery Johnson’s Alabama side and falling by 16 to BYU in Provo. In those two games Coastal shot a combined 31% from the field, 28% from 3, and 56% from the line. Last time I checked, those types of shooting numbers aren’t going to get it done against average Power 5 conference sides.

However, CCU did out-rebound Alabama and tie BYU on the boards in both matchups and this is a category they rank 37th in the country in. If Coastal Carolina can get Wake’s bigs into foul trouble, offensive rebound opportunities could be a source of momentum for the Chanticleers. After all, shooting ~30% with 5-10 more opportunities through 2nd chances doesn’t look so bad on the scoreboard in the end.

The backcourt of Coastal Carolina is the dominant part of the offense with four year starter Elijah Wilson and South Carolina transfer Jaylen Shaw leading the production. The two take account for roughly 40% of the team’s scoring and are CCU’s best 3-point and free throw shooters. Despite Wake’s guards not being the most talented in man defense, I don’t see these two being able to take over a game based on their performances against the stronger opponents this year. Wilson in particular was 7/30 combined vs Alabama and BYU. Needless to say he doesn’t exactly look like a “giant killer.”

As for Wake, I’d expect Danny Manning to stick with his 9 man rotation tonight, but perhaps Japhet-Mathias gets some additional minutes due to his solid performance over the weekend. Ideally, the plan of course is to extend the lead to 15-20 in the 2nd half to get guys like Donovan Mitchell and Richard Washington some playing time opportunities as well. I remain excited at what both could bring to the team in future years and any glimpses we can see of them early in their careers is an added bonus.

In terms of room for improvement, in the most recent game against Charleston I saw a bit too many shades of 2013-2016 Wake Forest in the 2nd half as things started to get closer on the scoreboard. There were a few times where a player on Wake decided to go Iso to stop a C of C hot streak and took shots that were rushed, forced, or both. You might be able to get away with those types of takes against a lowly non-conference opponent, but in ACC play those are the plays that keep the momentum in your opponent’s favor and can lead to dangerous 7-0/9-0 runs the other way.

I’d like to see Wake attack the basket more in moments like this to try and crash the defense for an open look or draw the foul. The contested shots were falling in the last game, but during the nights when they inevitably don’t, we will want to have guys confident in moving the ball and taking it to the rim in pressure filled situations. Tonight is a perfect time to practice that.

Overall, I’m calling a 84-70 win for the Deacs and a scoreline that is a little closer than the game actually played. Keyshawn Woods will set the tone early with his leadership and John Collins and Bryant Crawford’s massive talent advantage at their respective positions should result in an early lead that Wake won’t relinquish. My top 3 goals for the night are 1) Another 75% FT line performance (Wake currently on a 4 game streak) 2) Limit TOs to under 10 for 2nd time this year 3) Get Donovan Mitchell, Sam Japhet-Mathias, and Richard Washington 5+ minutes to showcase their skills. Let’s hope the Deacs can continue their strong start to the year and move to 5-1 tonight in the Joel.