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Wake Forest Basketball: Key Matchup vs. Pittsburgh Panthers

Justin Champagnie is on track for ACC POY

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Miami-Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Due to covid issues at Boston College, Wake Forest’s game against the Pittsburgh Panthers, initially scheduled for February 7th, will now be played this Saturday, January 23rd. The Panthers have been a surprise team so far this season, currently sitting at 3rd in the ACC at 4-1 in the conference and 8-2 overall. Despite their own struggles with coronavirus this season (2 postponed games), Pitt is on a 3 game win streak with 2 wins over Syracuse and a nice home win over the Duke Blue Devils in 2021. A big part of that run has been due to the outstanding play of one half of Saturday’s key matchup, Justin Champagnie.

With the chaos of the 2020-21 season, it may have gone under the radar just how good Champagnie is playing. At 20 points and 13 rebounds per game, he is the only player in the ACC averaging a double-double this season; He also happens to be leading the ACC in both those categories and is 2nd in the entire nation in rebounds per game. Champagnie has scored 20 or more points in 5 of his 8 games this season and has 2 games with 20+ points and 20+ rebounds. To reiterate, one fourth of his games played this season are 20, 20 games—that’s insane. To put into perspective how rare that is, the only other player I could find from a major conference with multiple 20 point, 20 rebound games in a season since 2010 was Caleb Swanigan from Purdue in 2016.

In his last 2 games, Champagnie is averaging 27.5 points and 15 rebounds per game and that is after missing an ENTIRE MONTH of action due to a leg injury. While he is a capable 3-point shooter, most of his shots come off of drives or cuts to the basket and put backs off of offensive rebounds (75% of his shots are from 2-point range). He is also an incredible finisher in transition, which could have a big impact on the game due to Wake’s turnover issues. In his last game against Wake Forest (2020 ACC Tournament), Champagnie scored 31 points and grabbed 6 rebounds while shooting 68% from the floor, so we’ve seen him torch the Deacs before. If he keeps playing at such a high level, Justin Champagnie will no doubt be the ACC Player of the Year.

On the Wake side of the matchup, Isaiah Mucius has become the de facto 2nd option on offense (the first being Daivien Williamson). Mucius just had a huge game against UNC, where he scored 27 points on 7-12 shooting from 3-point range—he shot it so well he almost doubled his 3-point percentage for the season in 1 game. When Mucius is hitting from 3, it not only gives Wake Forest a big boost in scoring, but it also helps to open up the lane for drives or post ups. In his first 7 games, Mucius shot 3-21 (14%) from beyond the arc; in the last 2 games, he shot 8-15 from downtown (53%). Hopefully that is a trend that continues. With Williamson and Mucius really being the only 2 players for Wake Forest capable of creating their own offense, the Deacs are going to need big games from both of them to finally get in the win column.