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Wake Forest Basketball: Key Matchup vs. #16 Louisville

The Deacs are up against one of the best backcourts in college basketball

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Louisville Louisville Courier-Journal-USA TODAY Sports

At some point the schedule will get easier, right? Wake Forest is back in action on Wednesday, and this time they are facing the 16th ranked Louisville Cardinals, a team that is currently 8-1 and 3-0 in the ACC. At least this one is a home game. Let’s take a look at the key matchup in Wednesday’s game.

For the first time, the key matchup for the game features more than one player on both teams, simply because both players in the Louisville backcourt are so good I didn’t want to leave either out. Carlik Jones and David Johnson certainly have a convincing case for being the best guard tandem in the ACC—the only other pair that comes close in my mind is Jose Alverado and Michael Devoe at Georgia Tech, and you might recall that they combined for 42 points against Wake Forest a little over a week ago. Jones and Johnson play basically the entire game for Chris Mack, averaging 37 and 35 minutes per game respectively, and are the only two Cards averaging double digits in points this season. Jones is currently 7th in the ACC in points while Johnson is just behind him at 14th.

Jones and Johnson are such a lethal duo because they are both incredible at getting to the rim, shooting from the outside, and sharing the ball and getting their teammates involved. Jones is much quicker and seemingly does most of his damage off the dribble and in the pick and roll. He is a good 3-point shooter at 41%, but just 20% of his shots this season have come from beyond the arc. Johnson, on the other hand, uses his 6-5 frame to score over smaller defenders and has showed an ability to go into the post and score (recall that Wake had a little trouble stopping Kihei Clark in the post against UVA). Johnson is also an incredible catch and shoot 3-point shooter and will take them if the defender is even a fraction of a second late on a close out. About a third of his shots this season have come from downtown. In their last 3 games, Jones and Johnson combined for 37, 35, and 34 points in wins over Kentucky, Boston College and Virginia Tech—just over half of Louisville’s total points in those 3 games.

For the Deacs, Carter Whitt has been surprisingly good considering that he has been playing ACC basketball for all of 10 days, but he has had trouble taking care of the basketball. Turnovers against two guards that are so good around the basket would obviously not be great. Having played for Forbes at ETSU, Daivien Williamson has been Wake’s most steady player. It seems like anytime the Deacs are struggling to get a basket in the half court offense, Williamson is able to get into the paint and score, often with an acrobatic finish that didn’t look possible. His 49% shooting leads all Wake Forest players outside of Ody Oguama that have played meaningful minutes this season.

With Carlik Jones and David Johnson being so crucial to the Louisville offense, finding a way to limit their impact on the game will be huge for the Deacs. That is easier said than done, as no team has been able to do it this season. The Wake backcourt definitely has their work cut out for them.