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Virginia Men's Basketball

Virginia vs Wake Forest Preview

Matt Riley photo

10th ranked Virginia will head to Wake Forest on Saturday for an ACC clash between teams currently tied for second place in the conference standings.  Tipoff is scheduled for 2:00 PM Eastern, televised on ESPN U. 

About Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons enter with a 14-5 overall record, 6-2 in conference play.  They’ve won six of their last seven, and are a perfect 10-0 at home.  Their strength is on the offensive end.  KenPom has them 32nd in offensive efficiency, but only 144th on defense.  They’re currently in the 70th spot of the NCAA’s NET rankings, good enough to make this a Quad-1 game for the Hoos on the road. 

Head Coach Steve Forbes, in his third season, has shown an uncanny ability to identify players in the transfer portal who will thrive in his system.  Much like last year’s 25-win team, they’re led by a pair of newcomers that weren’t the most sought after names in the portal.  Of the eight players in their primary rotation, five transferred in.  The other three are from overseas. 

Wake Forest Personnel

Florida transfer Tyree Appleby (18.1 PPG) has become a star at Wake Forest.  He’s second in the ACC in scoring, and leads the league in assists at 6.1 per game.  Everything runs through him.  It’s very similar to how they used Alondes Williams last year.  Appleby isn’t as big or physical, but he shoots it much better at 42% from behind the arc.  

Guard Cameron Hildreth (13.1 PPG) from England is having a breakout sophomore year.  He’s really crafty creating off-the-bounce, and actually leads the team with a 6.3 rebound average.  Rounding out the backcourt is 6-6 junior Damari Monsanto (12.0 PPG), a three-point specialist.  

Delaware transfer Andrew Carr (11.9 PPG)  was their other big portal find this year.  A very skilled 6-9 forward, he’s a threat inside and out.  And 7-1 sophomore Matthew Marsh (6.1 PPG), also from England, has moved into the starting center spot.  

Guard Daivien Williamson (8.9 PPG), in his fifth season, gives them another 40% three-point shooter off the bench.  UVA recruited freshman forward Bobi Klintman (4.3 PPG) out of Sweden.  And Kansas State transfer Davion Bradford (2.9 PPG) is their backup center.  

Small Ball Hoos

UVA has gone almost exclusively to a small lineup lately. It all started when Bennett put four guards together on the floor in the second half against UNC, something he had only done briefly all season.  The Hoos pulled away, and haven’t looked back yet.   Center Kadin Shedrick has only played nine total minutes the last two games.  Ben Vander Plas moved into the starting lineup, and freshman Ryan Dunn is being used more as a forward. 

The Hoos have been really good offensively with the small lineup.  Bennett is running some different sets, more of his triangle offense and at times a five-out look.  Things that you can’t do effectively without at least four perimeter threats on the floor.   And defensively, they’ve held their own so far despite being outsized.  That’s the real key to making it work.

Wake Forest does rotate a pair of seven-footers at the center spot.  It’ll be interesting to see if Shedrick gets more time in this matchup.  Wake’s big men aren’t that involved offensively though.  And the Deacs will use their own small lineup for a good portion of the game. 

Important Game

UVA and Wake are among four teams tied for second place in the ACC, a game behind Clemson.  There’s a long way to go, and the standings will surely change.  But the Hoos only play each of the other current top four teams once. And they’ve already lost to two of them, Pitt and Miami.  Potential tiebreakers wouldn’t be friendly if they drop this one too.  

For the Deacs, this is the first of four straight Quad-1 games.  Despite the nice conference record, they have a lot to prove to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.   They’ve played really well lately, and certainly look the part of a tournament team.  But they need to win a couple of those.  Getting a Top 10 team on their home floor is a huge opportunity.

(Featured image credit: Matt Riley/UVA Athletics)

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