Wake Forest (9-14, 2-9) will take on No. 25 Miami (17-5, 6-4) tonight at 7 PM on ESPN2 in Coral Gables.
The Demon Deacons are 3-29 on the road in the ACC, 2-29 against ranked teams, and 18-47 overall in ACC play under head coach Danny Manning.
Miami is ranked 27th in KenPom and 8-1 at home (only loss coming to the late loss to Duke), while Wake sits at 92nd.
Overall the Canes are mediocre in conference play on both offense and defense, ranking 6th and 8th respectively in ACC-only play. Interestingly enough Miami has the 12th ranked defense overall according to KenPom and the 60th ranked offense.
The Canes did lose one of their better players in Bruce Brown in late January to a foot injury that he had surgery on. He is certainly out tonight and may be out for the rest of the season.
An interesting fact about Miami is that it starts a 5-7 freshman point guard in Chris Lykes (out of Gonzaga, the same high school as Bryant Crawford, as well as two preferred walk-ons for football who were recently announced). Lykes has struggled with his assist to turnover ratio, but does shoot 36% from 3’s and 47% from 2’s.
Ja’Quan Newton backs up Lyles and is the 6th man for Miami after starting the majority of the past two years.
KenPom has Miami winning 77-66, but that does not account for the absence of Brown, nor will it account for Wilbekin if he is out.
Overall I think this is actually a game that Wake Forest matches up well in. Miami is a slower tempo team which will help the Deacs play slower, which has usually been helpful in winning games. The Deacs are 2-2 in conference play when the game is under 70 possessions. I would guess the tempo is under 70 possessions tonight as well.
I would hope that Crawford will take advantage of the height advantage against Lykes, but I’m unsure of how Miami will match up in the man-to-man. Doral Moore should also have a good shot at reaching double-digit rebounds for the seventh straight game in his matchup against 6-11 Dewan Huell.
My guess is that this game will look a lot like other games we have seen on the road this season (State and UNC in particular). The Deacs will come out focused and intense early to get a 5 point lead before defaulting back to its traditional matador defense and individual based offensive sets to trail by a handful at the half. A second half run will bring the Deacs even or close to tied before Miami ultimately pulls away in the final 5-7 minutes en route to a 7-9 point victory.
Maybe tonight is the night that the Deacs get over the hill and beat a ranked team on the road for the first time since January 20th, 2010 (an 82-69 win over North Carolina). That is a 20 game span of losses for Wake Forest on the road against ranked teams.