Wake Forest (10-16, 3-11) will welcome an N.C. State team (17-9, 7-6) to Winston-Salem today that cannot afford a slip-up to its in-state rival down I-40. The game will air at 4 PM on the ACC Network.
The Wolfpack, under first year head coach Kevin Keatts, have upset three top-ten teams this season, but due to a woeful out of conference schedule (8th worst in the nation), will likely need to get to 20 wins (10 in conference) to make the NCAA Tournament.
On the other end of things, this has been a year to forget for Danny Manning and Wake Forest. Coming off of the first NCAA Tournament in 7 years last season, many expected the Deacs to return to the postseason, but three straight losses to open the season, followed later in the year by a seven game in-conference losing streak, has led to a disappointing record thus far.
The Deacs are looking for its second straight win though after a 79-62 win on Valentine’s Day over a depleted Georgia Tech team, and are favored in Vegas (and KenPom) by 1 point.
Doral Moore has been sensational recently for the Deacs, accruing double-digit rebounds in 9 straight games, which is the third longest streak for a Wake Forest player since 1960 (Duncan- 14, Chappell-11). He also ranks second in the ACC in rebounding at 11.1 RPG in ACC play.
Wake Forest has not lost to N.C. State in Winston-Salem since 2012, winning five straight during that span. To get a sixth straight home win over the Pack, Wake Forest will need to figure out a way to limit the passing ability of sophomore point guard Markell Johnson, who is averaging nearly 8 per game in ACC play.
The Deacs actually led 38-33 at the half in the 72-63 loss to N.C. State in Raleigh earlier this season, but this was one of the games where Wake simply failed to score when it mattered at the end of the game.
N.C. State is better offensively than they are defensively, particularly in transition, which is where Wake Forest has struggled immensely this season. They get to the basket very well and also get to the line well, which is also an area that the Deacs have struggled, particularly in sending opponents to the charity stripe.
Ideally Danny Manning will slow the game down a bit and try to limit transition baskets for the Pack. A slower pace favors the Deacs because it will force N.C. State to have to score in the half-court sets, which is not their strong suit.
Overall I think Wake Forest is in a good place to win this game. The pressure is all on N.C. State to come out and get another road victory, and Wake is simply trying to defend its home court.
Wake has continued to play very hard despite the record, and hopefully it will finally show up and pay offin the win column over the next two weeks, as the schedule is very manageable heading into the ACC Tournament.