Virginia Basketball can’t win on the road. Not right now, anyway. The last three road games have all been blowouts. For many years, Virginia has consistently won on the road. People say “defense travels” and that was often true for those teams. But this team isn’t playing defense on the road. In those three losses, the opposing teams have scored 1.17 points per possession. That would rank in the bottom 10 nationally.
The Wahoos now travel to Winston-Salem to face another solidly mediocre ACC team in Wake Forest. They are coming off a road loss against Florida State on Tuesday, but they beat Miami last weekend. They are 11-4 (3-1 ACC), and ranked 44th on KenPom. The Wahoos have plummeted all the way to 60th on KenPom.
Game Time: Saturday, January 13, 2PM Eastern
Three Players to Watch
Kevin “Boopie” Miller
Like so many teams these days, Wake Forest is led by transfers. Miller comes in from Central Michigan. They also have transfers from Gonzaga and Delaware. Four of their five starters come via transfer. Miller missed most of last season with a foot injury. He hasn’t missed a beat.
Boopie runs the point and leads the team in scoring and assists, plus steals. Something I say over and over again, but Miller has never faced a defender like Beekman. Reece is going to have to be on point defensively, because Miller can score.
Some kinda move and finish. Miller can shoot (39% this year, 37% career). But this is more his game. He takes just around 3 treys per game. He’s best going downhill to the rim to either finish or draw a foul.
Another transfer, Carr actually came in last season, so he’s got some experience in the system. Last year, he averaged 11 and 6 on 48% shooting. He attempted around 3 treys per game, making just 31%.
He’s improved every one of those numbers since last year, and he’s up to 13 points and 7.5 rebounds on 53% shooting and 35% from downtown. Maybe he comes back closer to where he was last year by the end of ACC play. But that’s still a very good player, and it does seem like Carr has improved. He’s 6’10” 220, and this is the type of player Virginia has struggled with.
The Deacons have a seven-footer in Efton Reid (5-star recruit originally from Richmond, began at LSU and transferred to Gonzaga and now to Wake Forest), which makes Carr the 4. They’ll go small with Carr at 5 sometimes, but that is their starting lineup. And that type of lineup has given Virginia fits this year. Ryan Dunn is a beast defensively. On the perimeter. But he isn’t really up to banging inside with bigger players. He’s too slight. And Virginia doesn’t have enough frontcourt depth to move Dunn to the wing.
If Virginia is going to win this game, keeping Carr off the offensive glass and out of the paint is absolutely imperative.
Again, the outside shot isn’t really his game. But this was a HUGE shot, on the road at BC, and it clinched the game. Notice Nice drive and kick from Miller.
This is Wake’s answer to Isaac McKneely. He’s a 6’3” 195 freshman and he can shoot. But he doesn’t do much else. His rebound rate is miniscule. His assist rate is miniscule. He’s attempted 70 shots on the season and just 4(!) have come from 2-point range. That’s 94%! It’s a small sample size, but Friedrichsen does look solid defensively.
Friedrichsen is 8/20 from downtown over his past 3 games. McKneely is 9/17 over his last 3. That matchup at the 2 could be a key factor. If one of them gets going from deep, it could turn the game.
This is a sick step-back. How do you stop that?
Two Key Matchups
Three Point Shooting
It isn’t just Friedrichsen. This whole team can shoot the rock. Cameron Hildreth, the longest tenured Deacon, is shooting 46% on 4 attempts per game. As a team, they are shooting just under 38%. It’s the most important part of their offense because it drives everything else they do.
Look at that game clinching three from Andrew Carr. At the beginning of the play, there isn’t a single Deacon inside the three-point line. Efton Reid is setting a screen up top for Miller, and the rest of the team are spotting up outside the arc. That means the paint is open, which makes the defender crash when Miller gets inside. That leaves the shooter open. Rotations against this offense have to be crisp, or there are going to be open threes.
Wake is a small team on the perimeter and they aren’t good at defending the outside. In their four losses, their opponents shot almost 40% from three. That’s what this game will be. If Virginia makes shots, they are in it. If they don’t make shots, they won’t be in it.
I’ve discussed this here before, but the extra possessions gained by Virginia’s forced turnovers was really helping to drive the offense. An offense that simply isn’t very good, gets a huge boost from easy buckets.
NC State had just 6 TOs in their runaway win. It’s safe to say that if Virginia has more TOs than their opponent, they are going to struggle to win.
Historically, Tony Bennett’s teams haven’t been geat at forcing TOs. The goal is usually to force bad shots, not to force turnovers. The national championship team ranked 250th in forced turnover rate. It’s because of the natural talents of Beekman and Dunn, mostly. But it may also have been covering for some other defensive shortcomings. That only works if teams actually commit turnovers, though.
Wake Forest is a low turnover team. They play a lot of iso ball and a lot of screen-and-roll. Not a ton of passing from guys not named Miller. The Deacons rank 312th nationally in assist rate. That’s usually a bad thing against Tony Bennett teams. Not sure about this team right now though.
Wake is much more of a perimeter oriented team, compared to NC State. That matchup never looked great because of the Wolfpack’s interior presence. It feels like a better matchup for the Hoos. But until we see this team play well on the road, it is awfully hard to think they are going to win anything.
Prediction: Deacons 69, Virginia 60