Wake Forest Preview

Who: Virginia Tech Hokies (10-5, 1-2 ACC) vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-10, 0-2 ACC)

When: Saturday, January 15 @ 8:00 p.m.

TV: ACC Network

Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA

The Opponent: As is sometimes life in the ACC, the Hokies face a quick turnaround (45 hours) after Thursday’s heartbreaking loss to UNC with a visit from the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Deacs have dropped their first two ACC games by a combined 40 points and have lost seven of their last nine. This young Wake squad has lost to Stetson by 10, Winthrop by 10, UNC Wilmington by 12, and Presbyterian by 2. Plus, they barely squeaked by winless UNC Greensboro 69-67. Their best win? Probably Hampton in November.

Wake doesn’t have any problem scoring, as they average nearly 72 ppg. However, when you give up 75 ppg, and have the worst rebounding team in the league, you’re not going to win a lot of games. The Deacs rank dead last in the ACC in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, as well as turnover margin and scoring defense.

Here’s a look at Wake Forest’s starting lineup:

No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG
2 Gary Clark G 6-4 200 So. 11.5 2.5
11 C.J. Harris G 6-3 185 So. 10.5 3.7
30 Travis McKie F 6-7 205 Fr. 13.2 7.8
20 Ari Stewart F 6-7 205 So. 11.2 5.6
33 Carson Desrosiers F 7-0 235 Fr. 4.3 3.6

As you can probably tell, Wake Forest is really young. Their top two scorers, Travis McKie and reserve J.T. Terrell (6-3, 175), are both freshman. Terrell is averaging 13.3 ppg for the Deacs, but has scored just eight points in each of Wake’s ACC games. The freshman guard started the first seven games of the season, dropping 36 on Iowa, before falling out of the starting lineup. On the other hand, McKie is the team’s biggest weapon. The Richmond product has five double-doubles on the season including a 13-point, 10-rebound effort against Maryland on Wednesday.

The starting backcourt adds some stability to the Deacs. Senior Gary Clark has finally broken through into the starting lineup and is taking advantage. Clark leads the nation in three-point percentage, making 64 percent (28-44) of his treys. Point guard C.J. Harris is the lone Deacon to have started a game against Virginia Tech, scoring seven in last year’s 87-83 Hokie win in Blacksburg. Harris has had trouble with turnovers this year, averaging 3.5 per game.

Ari Stewart was a standout for the Deacs in his freshman campaign last year, and has been solid as the power forward this year. However, like most of the team, he’s struggled recently, reaching double digit points in just two of the last six games. Carson Desrosiers rounds out the Wake starting five, but despite his size, he doesn’t offer much offensively. Desrosiers is coming off a game in which he blocked seven shots against Maryland. Ty Walker (7-0, 230) is Desrosiers’ backup and averages 3.2 blocks per game, which is ninth nationally.

Keys to VicTory:

  • Carolina Blues
    • The Hokies need to move past Thursday’s loss to North Carolina and focus on this game. It’s always tough to play a team less than 48 hours after another, but luckily for Tech that team is Wake Forest. I wouldn’t be alarmed to see a slow start from the Hokies on Saturday, but they can ill-afford to believe they’ll win just because they’re the better team (see: UVA game).
  • M*A*S*H Unit
    • The “Elite Eight” tried its damnedest to pull out a win in Chapel Hill, but with injuries and fouls galore, it just wasn’t meant to be. The Hokies are hurting right now and we’re uncertain on the status of Erick Green and Manny Atkins, although it just looked like temporary cramps. Playing with eight guys is already starting to take its toll on Tech, and if that drops to a lower number the Hokies are in deep trouble.
  • Defensive Intensity
    • The key for Tech’s hot start Thursday was the defense creating turnovers leading to some easy shots. The Hokies forced 12 turnovers in the first half out of the 2-3 zone, but then seemed to lose their fire. Carolina only turned it over five times in the second half, allowing the Heels to pull out the win. Wake turns the ball over a lot, and the Hokies will more than likely switch up their defense to confuse the young Deacons. Nevertheless, the intensity needs to be there for the entire 40 minutes if Tech wants to win.

Let me emphasize this: Wake Forest is AWFUL. Like RPI of 259 awful. For reference, 3-13 Bryant of the Northeast Conference has an RPI of 245. The Hokies need to win this game and I expect them to easily. Hopefully Seth Greenberg fired up his troops so that they come out and punish the Deacs to let the ACC know they’re not going to let Thursday’s loss bother them. Even more importantly, with four of the next five ACC games after Saturday on the road, the Hokies need to protect the Cassell.