Coming off of a brutal last second loss to Duke over the weekend, Wake Forest (12-9, 3-6) travels north to Chestnut Hill to take on the Boston College Eagles (9-13, 2-7) in what is an extremely important game for the Demon Deacons if they want to keep their NCAA Tournament aspirations.
This game is actually on ESPNU and will air at 7 PM live from the Conte Forum. For those interested I will likely be at Foothills in downtown Winston-Salem to watch the game (and Tuesday Trivia to either celebrate or mask my tears afterwards).
The past two losses for Wake in Syracuse and then at home to Duke on Saturday, were basically “gain” games, meaning that they were games that were toss-ups. This game is not a toss-up. The Deacs opened as 6.5 point favorites and need this win if they are going to get to 8 ACC wins on the season.
After starting the ACC season 2-2, the Eagles have lost five straight, including two home games to Virginia and North Carolina. They played on Sunday Night Hoops, where they staged a late comeback at Virginia Tech, but ultimately fell short, 85-79.
The Deacs won the first matchup this season 79-66 back on January 3rd in Winston-Salem. Despite trailing 37-35 at the half, Wake outscored BC 19-8 in the first ten minutes of the second half to pull away. Collins finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds, while Dinos Mitoglou provided 15 points and 7 rebounds. Bryant Crawford had a workmanlike 11 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and just one turnover in 33 minutes.
Boston College finished 5-30 (17%) from behind the arc and it is highly unlikely that will occur again, especially with the room that the Wake defense gave them.
In order to win this game, Wake Forest has to play better defense down the stretch. KenPom projects the Deacs to win 84-77 and provides a 74% win expectancy. Boston College is ranked 143rd in KP, while Wake currently sits at 34th.
A sidenote to the game is that Wake has the chance with a good performance to move into the top ten in the nation in offensive efficiency. Unfortunately a 139th ranked defense is holding the Demon Deacons back.
The good news is that Boston College ranks 115th in defense and 182nd in offense, and will likely struggle to defend John Collins in the interior (but who hasn’t in recent games).
Collins is the first Wake Forest player since Jeff Teague to score 20+ points in four consecutive games. In those four games he is averaging 23 PPG on 72% shooting (83% from the foul stripe) and 9 RPG as well. If I were Coach Manning I would establish Collins early and often and make BC prove to me they can stop him before turning away.
Boston College relies heavily on the backcourt duo of Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson. Although they are both slightly below average from an offensive rating standpoint, they have both taken on a huge scoring role this year. Bowman has three 30+ point games this season, including a 33 point effort last weekend against UNC on 7-9 shooting from deep.
While Wake is probably pleased to not be playing a high scoring wing player, the backcourt will have their hands full with Bowman and Robinson.
Ultimately I think that John Collins and Bryant Crawford are coming into their own and realize that they have to be the catalysts to win these games. I expect a heavy reliance on attacking the rim off the dribble and just winning the interior game.
I’ll take the Deacs by 10, 81-71 in a much-needed road win before heading back home to focus on Georgia Tech on Saturday.