Wake Forest (8-12, 1-7) will head to the Bluegrass State to take take on Louisville (15-5, 5-2) Saturday night at 8 PM on the ACC Network.
The Deacs are looking to snap a six game losing streak and also win its second straight game over Louisville. Wake defeated the Cardinals 88-81 late in February last year, overcoming a 32-19 deficit late in the first half. That win likely pushed the Deacs into the its first NCAA Tournament since 2010.
That game might as well have been 20 years ago from the feel of things around Winston-Salem though. The Deacs have lost 8 out of 9 games and the schedule does not get easier from here, with 5 straight top 50 KenPom games coming up (including the game at Louisville).
The Cardinals nearly knocked off Miami on the road this week in Coral Gables, but wound up dropping a tight one in overtime.
It is David Padgett’s first year as head coach for Louisville, replacing disgraced coach Rick Pitino following a slew of NCAA and morally bankrupt allegations that occurred during his time there.
Louisville has lost just one game at home this season and it was on December 3rd, a 79-77 loss to Seton Hall.
This will be a pretty tough game for the Deacs and KenPom has it as a 77-67 game in favor of the Cardinals.
The Cards are led by junior wing Deng Adel, who has come on strong this year for Padgett. Adel is averaging 15.7 PPG and 4.9 RPG.
Point guard Quentin Snider has finally reached his final year of eligibility in what feels like his 8th season, and is averaging 13.1 PPG and 4.7 APG.
Big men Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud hold things down in the interior for the Cards, combining to average 19 PPG, 15 RPG, and 6 BPG. This will be a fun test inside for Doral Moore, who was dominant in his last outing going 9-9 from the field in the loss to Duke.
The Cardinals boast the 12th ranked defensive efficiency in the nation and the 80th best offensive efficiency in the nation. Under Padgett the Cards have actually ramped up its pressure defense from last year and are forcing turnovers on 20% of opponents possessions.
In ACC play the Cards rank 2nd in DE and 7th in OE (out of 15 teams).
When you pair the high pressure turnover defense with the stifling on-ball defense resulting in top 10 field goal defense against both 2’s and 3’s it makes for a tough game for opposing offenses.
If there is a chink in the overall defense of Louisville it is the defensive rebounding, which Moore should capitalize on for Wake Forest based on his past few games. The Cardinals rank 295th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
Wake’s offense has continued to steadily fall after reaching the top 25 at one point in late 2017. It is currently 81st nationally, with turnovers continuing to plague the team game in and game out.
This is a nightmare of a matchup from a “protecting the ball” standpoint. Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress will have to be on the top of their game if Wake is going to pull off the upset.
On the defensive side of things Wake has actually improved a bit, but still sits at a woeful 124th national rank in defensive efficiency. This is better than the nearly sub-200 ranking at the start of the season, but is still not going to get things done in ACC play.
Crawford leads the Deacs with 15.7 PPG, but is also averaging 3.5 TPG, many of which seem to come at the most inopportune of times and/or are completely unforced errors.
Moore is averaging 10.2 PPG and 8.6 RPG, while also chipping in 2.3 BPG.
A good chunk of Louisville’s offense comes in transition, no doubt due in large part to the number of open court turnovers that it forces. Louisville sits just inside the top 50 nationally in percentage of time played in transition offensively at just over 20%. They are also very efficient in transition, averaging 1.103 PPP.
In the half court offense the Cardinals rely primarily on spot-up shooting, but is just “average” at it nationally at .895 PPP.
Defensively the Cardinals press approximately 12% of the time and run man 76% of the time. It certainly feels like more than that, but in the 12% press the Cards turn opponents over 20% of the time.
The Cardinals are excellent in both half-court and transition defense, but the one place where it has been less than stellar is defending the pick-and-roll. Wake uses a lot of pick-and-roll so perhaps that is an area that Wake can exploit and get some easy baskets.
Every game moving forward now for Wake is one that “needs” to be won to stop the current slide. The schedule is not getting any easier for the next two and a half weeks, but the Deacs need to figure out a way to stop the bleeding and avoid a 1-12 start before hosting Georgia Tech on Valentine’s Day.