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THE BIG PREVIEW: Wake Forest vs. Virginia

The Hoos have a chance to get back to their winning ways with the Demon Deacons coming to town.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The newly No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers are coming off of their first loss of the 2018-19 season, but have a chance to return to their winning ways as they welcome the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to John Paul Jones Arena.

Wake’s head coach Danny Manning was a great college basketball player, pretty much single-handedly leading Kansas to a national title in 1988. As a head coach, though, he has not been great. His overall record is 100-111. He’s 21-56 in the ACC over four-plus seasons.

This year’s Demon Deacon squad is very young. Six players average over 20 minutes per game, and that group includes three freshmen and two sophomores. One of those freshmen are Jaylen Hoard, the 22nd ranked recruit in the nation last year. So, it’s possible that Wake is pretty good next year. It’s also possible that Manning isn’t around to see it.

This year, the Deacons are 8-8 (1-3 ACC), with a big win over NC State last week. They have also lost, at home, to Houston Baptist and Gardner-Webb. They also beat Davidson, but are are coming off a blowout loss at Virginia Tech.

As mentioned above, Virginia is coming off their first loss of the season, a two-point loss on the road at Duke. There are a few takeaways from that game for Virginia, but the biggest is that they were able to compete with Duke despite a poor shooting day. That does not bode well for a Wake Forest team that does not have the elite talent that Duke has.

This isn’t to say that the Deacons don’t have talent, because they do. They are led by junior Brandon Childress. If you’re as old as me, you probably remember his father Randolph Childress, who played with Tim Duncan in the 90s. Randolph is an assistant coach for the Deacons now, and the duo is the highest scoring father-son duo in ACC history. The younger Childress has become one of the top players in the ACC. He’s shooting 44% from downtown and leads the team in scoring, assists and steals. He also almost never leaves the floor.

Childress is taking about 58% of his shots from downtown. But he’s dangerous off the dribble as well:

Figure on Childress getting a big dose of Kihei Clark’s defense. If Clark is able to shut down (or slow down) Childress, that will make it very difficult for Wake Forest to get anything going. Childress isn’t the only weapon they have, but he’s the most important part of their offense. Against VT, he had 28 points (on 7-for-12 shooting), but had just two assists. Nobody else had more than eight. He had just 10 points in their upset of NC State, but he also had nine rebounds and four assists.

The most talented player for Wake is Hoard. He’s averaging 14 points and eight rebounds, which is impressive for a freshman. The rebounds are particularly impressive, since he’s listed at 6’8, 215. He’s a French National, but played two years of High School ball in North Carolina. His father played at Murray State and his mother played at Washington, and both had successful professional careers overseas. Hoard’s goals are higher than that, and he could very well enter the draft this year. He’s not projected as a first round pick, so there’s a good chance he comes back for his sophomore campaign.

As a team, the Deacons get to the line a lot. It’s really the only thing they’re good at, though it’s mostly Childress and Hoard. They rank 255th nationally in three point shooting, 267th in two point shooting and 121st in overall offensive efficiency. They are 8th in FT rate though. They are also solid on the offensive glass, ranking 33rd. That isn’t just Hoard. Fellow frenchman Olivier Sarr is one of the top offensive rebounders in the nation. The 7-footer hasn’t really figured out how to play offense yet, but is a beast on the boards.

Other than Childress, nobody on this team can shoot. Sophomore Chaundee Brown is making 33% on about four attempts per game. That’s the second best on the team. Four others attempt more than one per game while making under 30%. That’s poor.

Defensively, Wake is going to play a lot of zone. As you can see below, they extend the zone out. That puts pressure on perimeter shooters, but it also opens things up on the inside. The Hokies shot 42% from downtown, but they shot a ridiculous 72% on the inside. That is, essentially, the defense Wake plays. They rank 85th nationally in three point defense, but 323rd in two point defense. They also don’t force turnovers, block shots, or really do much to trouble opposing offenses. They rank 209th in defensive efficiency. They have the single worst defense among Power-5 conferences that aren’t in the horrendous Pac-12.

The rest of the Deacon’s rotation is freshmen and a couple of graduate transfers. None of the move the needle much for this team. The only chance Wake in this one is if Virginia struggles from the outside again. Even if they do, Virginia has a big advantage on the inside with Braxton Key and company and that would be enough to win. More likely, Wake’s defense doesn’t do enough to stop Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and company from getting back on track.

Tip off is set for 9pm, and the game will be broadcast on Regional Sports Networks.