The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-9, 1-4) will get back to action after a 5 day layoff when it takes on the N.C. State Wolfpack (12-6, 2-3) tonight at 8 PM in Raleigh. The game will air on the ACC Network/WatchESPN app.
This kicks off a 6-day, 3-game stretch for the Deacs who desperately need to win at least one of the next three games. Tonight offers the best chance for a victory, as the next two games are back-to-back home games against top-10 opponents with No. 2 Virginia on Sunday and No. 5 Duke on Tuesday in Winston-Salem.
Last year the Deacs defeated the Pack 93-88 to snap an 11-game losing streak on the road in Raleigh. Wake Forest also dominated the game in Winston-Salem as well, beating N.C. State 88-58, the largest margin of victory in the series since 1980 (87-57).
The Pack are in its first year under Kevin Keatts, a Rick Pitino disciple who takes after his former coach in high pressure, full-court defense. N.C. State has knocked off three top 25 teams this season, including back-to-back wins over Duke and Clemson a couple of weeks ago in Raleigh.
N.C. State fell to Virginia 68-51 in Charlottesville on Sunday in its last time out, as it failed to get anything going against the Packline Defense of UVA, shooting just 2-16 from behind the arc and going 3-5 from the free throw line.
The game did mark the return of sophomore point guard Markell Johnson, who had missed the previous 6 games due to felony charges in Ohio. The charges against him were dropped and he was reinstated to play. Johnson had 0 points, 5 assists, and 3 turnovers in 23 minutes.
KenPom projects an 82-78 final score in favor of N.C. State (roughly a 67% chance to win).
The Pack ranks 47th in offensive efficiency and 133rd in defensive efficiency on the season according to KenPom. On offense it has done a fantastic job on the offensive boards, rebounding 36% of its misses on the season, ranking 12th nationally. It also does a great job of protecting the ball and getting to the line, ranking 52nd and 78th nationally in those factors.
Shooting is the one mediocre area for N.C. State on offense, ranking 135th nationally in effective field goal percentage at 51.6%.
On defense, Keatts squad thrives in forcing turnovers, ranking 31st nationally at 22% of all defensive possessions resulting in a turnover. It will be very important for the Deacs guards to stress ball security tonight, and that has been an issue off-and-on for the Wake Forest point guard duo of Brandon Childress and Bryant Crawford this season.
Despite dominating the offensive boards, the Pack does not do well securing defensive rebounds, ranking 290th nationally, which is a big reason why it currently sports a 133rd ranked defensive efficiency.
Looking individually at players for N.C. State, Torin Dorn and Omer Yurtseven have been the most efficient “go-to” guys.
Dorn, a junior 6-6 transfer from Charlotte, is a 34% three-point shooter, but has thrived from inside the arc, shooting 61% on 129 shots.
The sophomore Yurtseven has taken a decent sized step from last year, shooting 60% from 2’s and 65% from behind-the-arc on 17 shots. His ability to shoot the three will stretch Doral Moore out to guard him.
This is a game where I would expect Danny Manning and the staff to throw some zone at the Wolfpack. The Pack shoots 33% on the year from behind the arc and doesn’t attempt that many either (298th in 3PA/FGA on the season).
This is the perfect chance to keep Moore inside and out of foul trouble, while also enticing N.C. State to take threes if the opportunity presents itself.
I actually have a better feeling about this game than I have the last few games and think that the mini-break before the stretch ahead will do the team some good. While Wake Forest sits at 8-9 overall, there is still a lot of talent on this team and a lot of basketball left to be played.
It has been a disappoint year so far and there have certainly (and fairly I might add) been questions about the chemistry and makeup of the team, as well as the ability of the staff to get the most out of the talent on the team. Tonight is a great chance to get the season turned around and headed in the correct direction before two huge home matchups against top 5 teams.
I believe this game will come down to the wire and presents a great chance to get the first ACC road win of the season.