The Wake Forest Demon Deacons return home on Saturday when they host the North Carolina State Wolfpack at 12 p.m. The two squared off 3 weeks ago and the Deacs defeated the Wolfpack 93-88 in Raleigh. If Wake Forest is going to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive then winning this game is paramount. What can we expect to see in this contest?
The Deacs won the first contest in large part because of the decided advantage at the charity stripe. Wake made 29-33 (88%) free throws while State made just 16-27 (59%). This enabled the Deacons to make up for State making 71% of its shots from inside the arc. The rebounding edge was essentially even, but Wake had 2 fewer turnovers. In close games, the importance of making free throws and limiting turnovers is amplified.
NC State was able to shoot such a high percentage in the first game because point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is able to drive the lane and set up great looks for his teammates. He had 13 assists to just 2 turnovers in this game and also had 15 points on just 9 field goal attempts. Bryant Crawford will have a difficult time staying in front of him, but it will be important to contain penetration as much as possible so that John Collins doesn’t have to rotate over in help side defense and get into foul trouble. Abdul-Malik Abu had 20 points in the first meeting, so Collins will already have a tough individual matchup.
State is a talented offensive team, as they average 114.6 points per 100 possessions, which is 37th nationally. They achieve this because they have a very good set of guards/wings, including four players who shoot at least 38% from three. Wake will have to be in excellent defensive position so that they are able to contest shots with proper close outs.
The good news for Wake fans? State is a terrible defensive team. They allow 107.2 points per 100 possessions, which is 226th nationally. Given the Wake Forest has the 12th best offense in the country, they should be salivating. Wake has the shooters that should help create spacing, thus leaving more room for Bryant Crawford to drive and for John Collins to operate down low. If he doesn’t convert the first time, then I expect him to grab his own miss given State’s weakness of grabbing defensive rebounds.
This is a critical game for Wake. I hope that those who are within driving distance seriously consider going and cheering on the Deacons against an in-state rival. What do you all think about this game?