Virginia will try to pump the brakes on a two-game ACC skid tonight as the Cavaliers face Wake Forest in the cozy confines of John Paul Jones Arena. To prep us for the game, we caught up with Robert Reinhard of SB Nation’s Wake Forest site, Blogger So Dear.
We also answered some of their burning questions about the plucky Cavaliers. You can head over to Blogger So Dear to read those.
Streaking the Lawn: Wake picked up their first ACC win with a victory over BC, making both the Hoos and the Deacs tied for 13th in the insane-o ACC. How are you feeling about this Wake team, and what was the key to victory against the Eagles?
Blogger So Dear: I was feeling a lot better about this team prior to the Clemson game on December 31st. Wake led at FSU with about 9 minutes to go, but then the rails absolutely fell off. In the team's subsequent game against Clemson, Wake was up by 7 points and shooting the front end of a one-and-one with about 3:30 remaining and lost the game in regulation. Ken Pomeroy's win probability chart showed that the Deacs had about a 96% chance to win the game at that point. Had Wake been sitting at 2-1 in ACC play with a win over a very solid team, then I'd be feeling great about them. Still, Wake is 45th in Ken Pom and has shown they have the talent to play with most teams. I'm cautiously optimistic.
Wake really struggled in the first half and didn't bring much energy. In the second half, I thought Wake did a much better job of getting the ball inside to John Collins, as well as having crisp passes on the perimeter. Wake got the ball moving side-to-side, and that led to open looks for good outside shooters. Additionally, I thought Wake did a nice job increasing defensive intensity, grabbing defensive rebounds, and then getting some transition looks.
STL: Wake has four players averaging over 10 points per game. Who is someone Virginia fans should know?
BSD: I'd say the biggest name to know is sophomore big man John Collins. He was efficient last season, but his per game statistics weren't that impressive because Devin Thomas played the majority of minutes down low. With Thomas out of the picture, Collins is shining. He is averaging 16.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 60% from the field. He has an offensive rating of 119.8 with one of the 100 highest usage rates in the country. He's very skilled down low, and has a wide arsenal of post moves that he can utilize. As long as he can stay out of foul trouble, he's someone Virginia fans will be seeing a lot of.
STL: Despite giving up 88 points last outing to Pitt, Virginia still leads the nation in the lowest points allowed per game with 51.4. What does Wake need to do to offensively to challenge the Pack Line?
BSD: It's most definitely going to be a challenge, as Virginia has the third best defensive efficiency in the country. I also think Wake has the personnel to have a reasonable degree of success against the Pack Line. One obvious attack to the pack line is to beat it down the court in transition. Wake has done a much better job of defensive rebounding. This is supplemented by Virginia not being spectacular at crashing the offensive glass, so I expect this to be an advantage for Wake. If Wake can grab those boards, then I'll look for point guard Bryant Crawford to push in transition to try and convert easy opportunities.
Additionally, Wake's starting lineup is one of the better outside shooting lineups in the country, and stretch four Dinos Mitoglou made 8 three pointers against LSU. Going 4-out is a great way to attack the pack line, so having Dinos float on the perimeter, bringing a defender with him, and giving John Collins room to operate is big. Virginia is also just average at allowing opponents to get to the charity stripe, so Wake has to take advantage of those free throws. That's clearly not going against a defense, but a key to success is taking advantage of those looks.
STL: What are Wake's strengths defensively? Virginia brings depth and balance offensively...could that cause a problem for Wake?
BSD: Wake's biggest strengths defensively are the shot blocking of John Collins, and Doral Moore when he's in, as well as Bryant Crawford's ability to pick pockets. Crawford doesn't always play the best on-ball defense, and can get beat on cuts, but he also has the quickness to jump passing lanes and finish on the other end. If he can get run outs without getting burned back door too many times that's huge for Wake.
Depth and balance could be problematic. I would say that Wake's biggest defensive issues occur when they get in pick and roll situations or have to defend dribble penetration. In both instances the defense tends to break down, and then good passing teams will force Wake to attempt to recover, and the ball moves too fast on passes for defenders to appropriately catch up. If Virginia is going to have balance on the floor, but be more methodical, and not penetrate as much, then Wake has a much better chance at success.
STL: Obviously the last time Wake and Virginia played, it ended in maybe the most absurd fashion ever with Darius Thompson hitting a circus three. How do you see this one playing out? Who wins?
BSD: Wake always seems to have heartbreak against Virginia. Danny Manning has gone against Virginia three times, with two ending in crushing fashion, and the middle game being a complete domination. To me, this game is all upside for Wake. It's a game I have penciled as a loss, and am more anxious to see how Wake performs against an excellent team in a difficult environment. Wake has been turnover prone, so it's critical that they are very patient and methodical assuming they can't beat Virginia's defense down the court. I think Wake will perform well and make it interesting for the majority of the game, but ultimately Kyle Guy will knock down a few daggers down the stretch.
Virginia 68, Wake Forest 60.