While both Virginia and Wake Forest have now lost four of their last five contests, the programs couldn’t be on more divergent long-term tracks. In contrast to Virginia’s bright future and (somewhat) decent previous six seasons, Wake Forest is stuck in the sixth season of Danny Manning’s uninspiring tenure (74-102 record) with another five years of his guaranteed contract looming.
So far this season, Wake Forest is 9-9 (2-6 ACC) with quality wins at home against Xavier and on the road versus Pitt. The Demon Deacons have, in fact, played the 34th toughest schedule (via KenPom), as five of their nine losses have come against top quality opponents in Duke, Florida State, Arizona, Penn State, and N.C. State, all of whom are in the top-50 on KenPom. That said, Wake also dropped road games to Boston College and Charlotte early in the season.
The Deacs are led by senior point guard Brandon Childress, who leads the team in scoring at 15.2 PPG, and distributing at 4.7 APG. Childress is an interesting player, as he shoots five three pointers per game, but at a 32.2% clip. He is very capable of hitting a big shot off the dribble, which could prove to be dangerous if this game is close in the final minutes. At 6’0”, he struggles to do much damage on the inside, but can utilize his quickness to draw fouls on the interior.
Complementing Childress as scorers are Chaundee Brown and Olivier Serr, at 13.3 PPG and 13 PPG respectively. Unfortunately for Wake Forest, Brown has been dealing with a lower leg injury and his status is uncertain for Sunday’s contest. His versatility on the wing at 6’5” has been missed and his length could leave the Demon Deacons in a mismatch against Braxton Key when he lines up in the backcourt. The 7’0” Serr has just recently cracked the starting lineup in Brown’s absence, but has been killing it all season, averaging 9.5 RPG (2nd in the ACC) along with 1 BPG.
Outside of those three, there are another five players legitimately in the Wake Forest rotation, with two others that get more limited, opportunistic playing time. Most notably, Andrien White is the team’s fourth leading scorer (8.8 PPG) who does most of his damage from outside. On the season, White is shooting 40% from deep on 4.2 attempts per game.
On the offensive end, the Deamon Deacons are 69th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (via KenPom). They’ve struggled mightily taking care of the ball, posting a 20.6% turnover rate, at 256th worst nationwide. They’re generally sloppy and, especially without Brown as of late, have struggled to strike the balance between aggression and ball security. Counteracting some of that carelessness is that the Deacs get to the line at a ridiculous 42.3% rate, and hit 73.8% of their freebies. Some adequate three-point shooting has also acquiesced some of the ball security issues. While Wake Forest isn’t an elite three-point shooting team, they do can 34.1% of their attempts and are capable of getting hot as White and Brown along with freshman Ismael Massoud are ready and willing to jack it up from deep. Serr’s presence on the interior has lessened some of the pressure on the perimeter players, as has his 11% offensive rebounding rate.
Defensively, Wake has been atrocious for the last ten seasons, and Manning appears to have no answers. Heading into the matchup with the ‘Hoos, the Demon Deacons are 150th in defensive efficiency (KenPom) with a 101.7 rating. Luckily for the Cavs, Wake Forest has failed to force many turnovers. In fact, their defensive turnover rate and steal rate are 339th and 337th nationwide. They’re not disruptive defensively, and individually they give up size on the perimeter against the majority of ACC teams. The Deacs don’t block shots either, only at a 7.4% clip (239th). Hopefully the “Hoos can take advantage and run their offense a bit more smoothly than they have of late.
Virginia will win if: They don’t dig themselves a ten-point hole that they have to fight back from. In recent contests and the majority of their losses this season, they’ve dug themselves out from those sorts of deficits only to get complacent and lose out to the opposing team’s shot making. It’s time they took a lead and held it.
Wake Forest will win if: They can hit some tough, contested shots and then prevent the Virginia big men from getting into a rhythm.
Score Prediction: Virginia 53 – Wake Forest 45
Virginia should wear the Deacs down and eventually pull away. Childress is a chiseled veteran who has hit a number of big-time shots in his career, so if this game does come down to a few late possessions, the game could swing in favor of Wake Forest.