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Preview: Wake Forest @ N.C. State

Here we go again—-Wake Forest takes to the road to try to get an ACC win

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Well here we go again—-another chance for our beloved Demon Deacons to FINALLY get a road conference win.

This time Wake Forest (11-7, 2-4) takes the trip down I-40 to take on the N.C. State Wolfpack (13-6, 2-4) on Saturday at 2 P.M. at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC.

The road woes have been run into the ground both on Blogger So Dear, as well as any other avenue that Wake Forest fans congregate, but Danny Manning is still seeking his first conference road win at head coach of the Demon Deacons.

Overall, the Deacs have lost 25 consecutive road wins, and haven’t experienced the taste of victory since January 22nd, 2014 in an 83-77 win over Virginia Tech.

The losing streak spans 1,115 days, 26,760 hours, and over 1.6 million minutes, but HEY, who is counting???

Tomorrow presents a unique opportunity, as Wake Forest, according to KenPom, for the first time since that Wednesday night in Blacksburg three years ago, is actually expected to win. The Deacs currently hold a 56% chance to win over the Wolfpack (85-83 projected final).

Personally I think this is a very good match up for Wake Forest, particularly on the interior. Doral Moore dominated the Wolfpack in his 9 minutes last year in Raleigh, scoring 8 points, grabbing 7 boards, and blocking 3 shots. Obviously we have a known commodity in John Collins who will be a handful too. When you add in Dinos and Moore, there is a big question whether or not Beejay Anya, Omer Yurtseven, and Abdul-Malik Abu can slow them down without fouling.

Yurtseven is averaging 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes, while Anya is at 5.7. If I am Coach Manning, I go inside early and often to establish that game and try to get one of them onto the bench early.

The biggest issue that Wake is facing is the play of point guard Dennis Smith, Jr., a likely top 5 pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

Smith, Jr. is a very high possession player, leading the ACC with 30.7% usage rate in conference. He is a deadly scorer, and also has freakish athleticism to grab rebounds and see the floor. Turnovers can be an issue for him, and hopefully Bryant Crawford can pick him off a couple times.

Smith, Jr. dropped 36 points last weekend in a loss to Georgia Tech, to go with 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. In a game earlier this season against Rider he had 19 points and 16 assists. He also pulled in a triple-double against Virginia Tech on January 4th, scoring 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.

The dude is really, really good at the shooty hoops.

Wake Forest will need Bryant Crawford to be on his game both offensively and defensively to help mitigate Smith, Jr.. What cannot happen is Bryant breaking the game down into a one-on-one battle. Crawford has very valuable assets around him offensively, and can’t get lost in the game within the game. If he can protect the ball, take what Smith gives him, and hassle Smith on the perimeter then he will have done what is necessary to help Wake try to win the game.

N.C. State has the 47th ranked offense and 169th (!!!) ranked defense in the country. On the flip side, Wake Forest has the 16th best offense and 128th best defense in the country. Needless to say, this could be a pretty up-and-down, high scoring affair.

Neither team forces a lot of turnovers or steals, and while N.C. State is particularly bad at offensive rebounding, Wake Forest is really bad at allowing a high field goal percentage game after game.

On the offensive side of things N.C. State relies heavily on Dennis Smith, Jr. to drive and create. Once he gets into the lane he can pass out to Terry Henderson, Maverick Rowan, or Torin Dorn, all of whom are shooting over 38% from behind the three-point line.

Anya and Abu have struggled from their initial expectations this season, especially on a rebounding front, so that’s a decent advantage for Wake Forest.

Projected Lineups

N.C. State

PG- Dennis Smith, Jr. (Fr., 6-3, 190)

SG- Terry Henderson (Sr., 6-5, 195)

SF- Maverick Rowan (So., 6-7, 220)

PF- Abdul-Malik Abu (Jr., 6-8, 240)

C- Omer Yurtseven (Fr., 7-0, 245)

Wake Forest

PG- Bryant Crawford (So., 6-3, 200)

SG- Keyshawn Woods (So., 6-3, 205)

SF- Austin Arians (Grad Sr., 6-3, 205)

PF- John Collins (So., 6-10, 235)

C- Dinos Mitoglou (Jr., 6-10, 255)

It’s interesting to look at the depth chart over the past 5 games for Wake because the single most frequent lineup at 20% is our starting lineup (which categorizes Dinos as the center over Collins), but as far as minutes goes overall, it breaks down to: Crawford, Wilbekin, Woods, Collins, and Mitoglou.

Outside of the starting lineup there are very few lineups that Coach Manning likes to run that aren’t 3-guard lineups. I would like to see a lot of Moore tomorrow, and think Manning is likely thinking the same thing against State’s interior.

Against my better judgment I am taking Wake Forest to win in a high-scoring affair 92-87 to snap the three year ACC road drought. I think it will break down very similarly to the Virginia Tech road game last year, but believe the Deacs will come out on top. I expect a big performance from Collins and Moore, and hope Crawford does enough to stifle Smith, Jr. defensively.

This is a big game for Wake, but even a bigger one for State, as it’s at home and they have a hellacious schedule the rest of the year. Wake will need to bring their A-Game from the start because N.C. State knows that if they lose tomorrow that it’s a long uphill climb for any tournament hopes.