The last time the Hoos beat Wake Forest in basketball in Winston-Salem, I was still a student. And I'm OLD. At least in comparison to the rest of the STL crew. It was 2000. Current Hoos were probably in pre-school. It hasn't been a happy place for the Hoos to go play.
For this matchup, the Hoos may be down two starters. Certainly, we know Justin Anderson is still out with his broken finger. But now the Hoos may be without PG London Perrantes, who suffered a concussion on Sunday against FSU. Justin may be the heart and soul of the team, but London is the leader on the court. His vision, his ability to run the offense, and his shooting will me missed. It sounds strange to talk about London's shooting, considering the slump he was in for much of the season. But over the past few weeks, he's been the most consistent shooter on the team.
In the Hoos previous matchup against Wake Forest, less than 2 weeks ago, London shot 0-4 from downtown, but scored 11 points. The only Wahoo to make a 3 in that game was Evan Nolte, who shot 2-4. Wake Forest, on the other hand, made 10 treys, led by 6 from Dinos Mitoglou. The Hoos are going to have to do a better job of staying with the freshman from Greece. Wake actually has a couple of bigger guys who can shoot, and that tends to be a problem for the Pack-Line defense. The Hoos' big men would hedge on screens, and that would leave Mitoglou (or fellow freshman Cornelius Hudson wide open for 3s. Either the Hoos need to alter their plan on the hedge, or somebody needs to rotate out from the paint to get in the shooter's face.
Of course, the Hoos could also do a better job on offense. Not having Perrantes will certainly hurt, but the Hoos had struggled offensively even with London for the past 3 weeks. They scored .97 points per possession in the first Wake Forest matchup, and that actually wasn't too bad compared to some of the other performances lately.
Even if London plays, he's likely to be limited. That means that guys like Marial Shayok and Devon Hall need to step up. And, of course, some more good shooting from Evan Nolte would be nice. Expect the Hoos to do what they did the other day after Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon collided. They'll go inside to Anthony Gill and Darion Atkins. Wake Forest has tall players, but they only real defensive presence inside is Devin Thomas, as the others are perimeter players. The Hoos should be able to use their frontcourt depth to their advantage in this game.
Wake Forest is also a very young team, although they didn't seem it during their comeback attempt at JPJ. With Wake having not played in 8 days, you can bet the crowd will pumped for this one. The Hoos will need to withstand the early energy from both the team and the crowd. If the Hoos can get out to an early lead, they can get the crowd out of the game, and maybe get the young Wake Forest players out of their comfort zone.
The road has been kind to the Hoos this year, and that will be tested with 3 of the Hoos 4 remaining games coming on the road. This game is actually the easiest of the 3, with Syracuse and Louisville coming up, so a win here would be very big.