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Virginia Basketball Previews: Wake Forest

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After surviving the gauntlet portion of their schedule at 3-1, the Hoos now begin the home-stretch of the regular season, with the first of 3 consecutive home games against the ACC's lower echelon teams. This game is against Wake Forest, one of the youngest teams in the nation. Some of those guys have talent, but do they have the experience to survive against the Pack Line, at JPJ?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information
Opponent: Wake Forest
Location: JPJ
Day: Saturday, February 15
Time: 2:30 ET
TV: ACC Network

After the 4 game stretch that the Hoos just completed, they deserve a bit of a break. Obviously, no conference game can be considered easy, but playing Wake Forest at home is one of the easier games on the schedule. Wake is currently under .500 on the season, at 12-13. They are 4-8 in the ACC after beating Miami 72-70 on Wednesday. Wake has actually won 2 of their last 3, including a win over NC State, which is their best win this year.

Wake's current ranking is worse than the combined rankings of the Hoos' last 4 opponents. On Kenpom, Wake Forest is ranked 114. In RPI, they are 131 and in BPI they are 101. The Hoos last 4 opponents, Duke, UNC, Louisville and NCSt are a combined 83 on Kenpom, 82 in RPI and 67 in BPI. Interesting as that may be, it doesn't really mean anything. (OK, well it means that Wake isn't very good, but we already knew that.)

Offensively, the Deacons are kind of a mess. Their best offensive player is a 6'10" freshman from Greece, Konstantinos Mitoglou, and he is mostly a perimeter player. Not surprisingly for a freshman, he's been up and down this season, with some big games (21 points, 6/7 from 3 against Miami) and some poor games (5 points, 1/6 from 3 against FSU). Despite leading the team in efficiency, Mitoglou is only their 3rd leading scorer.

Wake's leading scorer is junior PG Cody Miller-McIntyre , who also leads the team (by a wide margin) in usage rate, despite being below average overall. Miller-McIntyre is shooting just 27% from downtown and 47% from inside the arc. He's also at just 63% from the charity stripe. So despite leading the team in a nearly 30% of the team's shots.)

Now, Miller-McIntyre is a good player and was one of the top PG recruits in the nation a few years ago. He's not super quick like NC State's Anthony Barber, but he is certainly capable of getting into the paint. He's tough and strong, and gets by with muscle moreso than quicks. He's a good passer and he's solid on the glass (2nd on the team in boards). Miller-McIntyre will rotate between PG and SG, but recently has been at the point mostly because of the emergence of freshman Mitchell Wilbekin. Wilbekin is also truly a PG, but because he's the best shooter on the team (and because of Miller-McIntyre's experience), Wilbekin has been spending most of his time at SG. Wilbekin is also a solid perimeter defender, though he'll be at a significant size disadvantage against whichever UVA guard he lines up against.

Wake's best overall player is probably Devin Thomas, who is 2nd in the ACC in rebounds, and 14th in the nation in defensive rebound rate. He'd probably be better on the offensive glass on a more well-rounded team, but he takes a lot of shots and therefore isn't always in position for offensive rebounds. He also gets to the line a lot, although he is under 60% shooting. Thomas is also a good shot blocker, despite being a bit undersized.

Overall, Wake is 114th nationally in offensive efficiency. They don't shoot the ball particularly well (217th in eFG%, 197th in 3P%, 212th in 2P% and 309th in FT%). They do get to the line a lot (much of that is Thomas, which helps explain the poor FT shooting). Defensively, they aren't any better. They are 127th in defensive efficiency. They don't force turnovers (264th), and don't really defend very well (216th in opp. eFG%). One thing they do very well is prevent offensive rebounds (11th, and again much of that is Thomas).

If the Hoos continue to shoot the ball they way they have the past two games, this contest will be closer than they'd like. The Hoos beat NCState by dominating the offensive glass, and that will be tough with Devin Thomas on the court. The Hoos will still have a distinct size advantage, because Thomas is their only true big man. Mitoglou will start at C, but he simply doesn't have the size nor experience to match up against Mike Tobey. And if Thomas matches up with Tobey, then Atkins/Gill will have their way with the freshman. The Deacs have plenty of size on the perimeter, with 6'6" Cornelius Hudon and 6'7" Greg McClinton. Both are freshmen, and neither have been great this year, but they will match up better with the Hoos than some other teams. Evan Nolte, used to having a size advantage against most wings, may find it tough to get his shot off in this one. Devon Hall's quickness might play better in this one.

I could see Wake Forest using some zone to help alleviate the size disparity, and also to force the Hoos to hit outside shots, something they've struggled with for the past couple of games. Being at home will help, of course, but guys need to knock down shots. A lot of that is taking good shots. Too often, we've seen the Hoos settling for contested outside jumpers, without getting the ball down into the post. This has especially been a problem against a zone.

The Deacons are one of the youngest teams in the nation, and despite having some height, are not a particularly big team, at least compared to the Hoos. They simply don't have the talent to stay with the Hoos, especially at JPJ. If they go zone, and the Hoos struggle to make shots, this game will be close. But, the Hoos shouldn't have too much trouble shutting down Wake's offense, and will likely win this one even without busting out offensively. If they manage to knock down some shots, this game could get ugly. KenPom predicts a 71-52 win for the Hoos.