One win, twenty-six losses: the 2016 edition of #TheRivalry is coming in hot. Wake Forest (1-13 in the ACC) hosts Boston College (0-13 in the ACC) in a battle to determine, once and for all, who is less bad at basketball (this year).
Wake Forest on Friday announced the dismissal of Cornelius Hudson from the program (fresh off a career-high 22 points against Pittsburgh) as well as a two game suspension for double-double machine Devin Thomas. Still, the Deacs are 6 to 8 point favorites against the Eagles.
Boston College (7-19, 0-13) has struggled to make up for the loss of its top three scorers from 2015 (including NBA draft pick Olivier Hanlan). Their #244 ranking in KenPom puts them second to last among P5 (+Big East) teams, with Rutgers bringing up the rear at #294. Coincidentally, Wake beat Rutgers earlier this year. Remember when Wake beat Indiana? Me neither.
BC's leading scorer is Eli Carter, a graduate transfer guard who (coming full circle here) started his playing career off at Rutgers. He broke his leg at the end of a freshman campaign that saw him put up 15 ppg, transferred to Florida for two years, and has averaged about 16 ppg this year for the Eagles. He likes to let it go from deep, but hasn't converted at a great clip (just under 30%). Dennis Clifford, a 7'1" senior center, is averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds. He could give the Deacs some trouble in the paint. We'll see if his presence, combined with Thomas' absence, leads Danny Manning to call on Doral Moore to put in his first extended minutes of the season. Moore and Collins are going to have to show up in a big way to slow down Clifford and make up for the team-leading 16 points and 10 rebounds Devin Thomas has accounted for. This will be one of the bigger story lines for fans who have been eager to see the promising freshmen get more minutes.
Meanwhile, Wake will need to limit turnovers after averaging over 13 the past three games. Equally important, Wake will have to make more of any opportunities it gets from the charity stripe. The Deacs shot a truly pitiful 50% (16-32) from the free throw line against Pitt (worse, in fact, than it shot from the field). Turnovers and free throws; same old song and dance.
The loss at Pitt was a real gut punch in a season of gut punches for Wake fans, and I'm sure it was doubly so for the team. Let's face it, there's not much glory to be gained in knocking off Boston College. I don't say that in a pretentious way: Wake has a terrible ACC record and BC is the one team that has done worse. That said, a win is still important here. One, because #TheRivalry, of course. Two, because we don't want an 11 game losing streak to stretch to 12, 13, 14, or 15 games. Three, because even if winning this game isn't a big deal, losing this game would be. Here are a few teams better than BC right now, according to KenPom: IUPUI, Tennessee Martin, Cal. St. Northridge, and Saint Peter's. As a Wake fan, I should know better than to talk down to other programs, so let's just say this: Boston College does not have an ACC win this year. Let's not give them their first.