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The Big Preview: Wake Forest

Virginia heads to Winston-Salem to try and pick up their first ACC road win on the season.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After a successful home stretch against two tough ACC teams in Clemson and Syracuse, the Hoos have to go back on the road where they've struggled mightily this season. So far, Virginia is 0-3 in ACC road games, dropping contests at Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Florida State by a combined 13 points. In each of those instances, they struggled to get off to a quick start, and their opponents had a hot night shooting (especially the three ball).

Last season, Virginia snuck by Wake at JPJ 61-60 thanks to a great defensive stand by Malcolm Brogdon to end the game. At Wake Forest, the Cavaliers destroyed the Deacs 70-34, despite missing Justin Anderson (broken finger) and London Perrantes (broken nose thanks to Brogdon's forehead).

Wake Forest comes into tonight's game, which was moved from Monday as a result of the shift in the Syracuse game due to Winter Storm Jonas, with an overall record of 10-9. The Demon Deacons have gone 1-6 in the ACC with their lone victory coming against NC State. Danny Manning's squad has lost four straight games, three on the road, to Virginia Tech, Syracuse, UNC, and Miami.

Against Wake Forest, the Cavaliers will have to watch out for their senior forward, Devin Thomas. Averaging a double-double this season with 16.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, the 6'9", 245 pound Thomas has overcome some of  his streakiness from last season and become a consistent scoring threat. He is shooting a solid 56% from the floor, all from the two-point range (he is 0-0 on three pointers), but struggling at the free throw line where he makes just 58% of his attempts.

Freshman guard Bryant Crawford is second on the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game, and leads the team from three point land with a 41% (33-81) average. Mitchell Wilbekin, averages 7.7 points per game, and converts 34% from beyond the arc: just enough for some of those irrational confidence shots that seem to go down against the Hoos. Codi Miller-McIntyre, Wake's senior guard, has been struggling this season with just 7.8 points per game and only converting 37% (24% from three) of his shots from the field.

And then there's Dinos Mitoglou. The "Greek Deac" lit up Virginia last season at John Paul Jones with six made three pointers as Coach Bennett struggled to find anyone who could mark him. Mitoglou is scoring just under 11 points per game and shooting 35.6% from three, good for second on the team. The stretch-four position is a nightmare for the Pack Line, but Evan Nolte's strong defense or someone athletic and long like Zay Wilkins or Marial Shayok could help shut him down from the outside. Shayok would also be beneficial in switching to prevent Mitoglou popping off of screens to get open.

In reserves, Wake has used John Collins (14 mins per game), Cornelius Hudson (23 mpg), Rondale Watson (16 mpg) and Greg McClinton (12.4 mpg) the most. Collins averages almost eight points per game, while Hudson is adding 7.4 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game.

As a team, Wake Forest is terrible from the free throw line, shooting just 67% (and 60% in conference play). Wake likes to run and get out in transition, averaging just 16 seconds per possession (Virginia is at 20 seconds). Defensively, they only force their opponents into turnovers 14.8% of their possessions (according to KenPom), which matches with Virginia's current offensive turnover rate of 14.9%. The Hoos should be able to limit turnovers against this team, while also forcing Wake into turnovers. Wake Forest turns the ball over 20.2% of their possessions, partly a side effect of trying to push the ball.

Catch the action tonight at 7pm on ESPN3 (online only).