Wake Forest @ Illinois: By the Numbers

What is the one thing Illinois and Wake Forest have in common besides their Top Five rankings in both polls? Both teams return the nucleus of their team from last season. What does that help Brumby look at when he breaks down this marquee match up of the Big Ten / ACC Challenge? He can look at the past to help predict the future.

Last season, the Demon Deacons played at one of the highest paces in all of college basketball. Their frantic pace helped them score a lot of points, and made them an exciting team to watch. The one knock on Wake Forest was not whether or not they would be able to score, but whether or not they could stop an opposing team from scoring.

Pace: 72.12
Offensive Efficiency: 114.68
Defensive Efficiency: 102.97

What does this tell us about the Wake Forest Demon Deacons?

1. They can put up points with the best of them. They score an average of 1.15 points per possession, and with 72.12 possessions per game, they were putting up 82.94 points per game last season.

2. Their opponents were putting up points at a better than average rate. They were allowing opponents to score 1.03 points per possession, and with the same 72.12 possessions per game, they were allowing 74.3 points per game last season.

The personnel on the Deacons has not changed, but they have had a year to mature, and have heard for the entire summer that their defense is what would cause them to miss the Final Four this season. So what has Wake Forest done in the first five games of the season? Played some defense. While these numbers only reflect the first five games of the season, they do help to show that the Demon Deacons may be a little bit of a different team this year, who might not have to be called the "emon eacons" because they have no D.

Through Five Games …

Pace: 74.89
Offensive Efficiency: 111.90
Defensive Efficiency: 89.2

Comparing this year's statistics with last year's statistics, the only glaring change in Wake Forest is the defensive numbers. They have been holding opponents to less than one point per possession (an artificial barrier that separates good defense from bad defense in my mind), and have still been scoring more than that one point per possession.

As any Illinois fan knows, the Fighting Illini are returning every major player in the team's rotation. The Illini had the double bonus last season in their efficiencies, offensive efficiency over 100 and a defensive efficiency under 100. A team that could score and stop you from scoring, and since the same players are on the team, one would expect that to continue.

Pace: 64.45
Offensive Efficiency: 111.29
Defensive Efficiency: 97.61

What does this tell us about the Illinois Fighting Illini?

1. They can score points at a very solid clip. The Illini averaged 1.11 points per possession last season while scoring 71.54 points per game.

2. They can stop their opponents from putting the ball in the hoop. The one thing Illinois started to do very well as the season ended was guard the basketball. It took the Illini a while to learn how to play defense in Bruce Weber's system, but once they understood it, they became a very solid defensive team. Opponents were only scoring 0.98 points per possession and averaging 63.2 points per game.

Through four games …

Pace: 69.27
Offensive Efficiency: 127.04
Defensive Efficiency: 91.88

Comparing last year's statistics to what Illinois has done through four games this season and two things stand out: they have improve both offensively and defensively. The improvement on the offensive side of the ball can easily be pointed out to the competition and the hot shooting of the Fighting Illini guards. The improvement on the defensive side of the ball could be pointed out to be the competition Illinois has played as well.

The one thing that is definitely shown in the numbers, the game will be played at a fast pace. Illinois likes to run, and so does Wake Forest. The Illini's pace this season has slowed down in the second half of blowouts, which is why they are averaging about five possessions less per game than Wake Forest. Based on the pace of each team, I would say that on Wednesday night there will be about 72 possessions per team.

What does this 72 possessions per team allow me to figure out? I am going to use this to predict the score of the game between these two teams.

Based on historical statistics in 72 possessions …

Illinois should score 79.92 points.
Wake Forest should score 82.08 points.

Illinois should allow 69.84 points.
Wake Forest should allow 74.16 points.

If you just look at this season's statistics, based on 72 possessions …

Illinois should score 91.44 points.
Wake Forest should score 80.64 points.

Illinois should allow 66.24 points.
Wake Forest should allow 64.08 points.

So now, we try to figure out what sort of an effect playing against top competition would do to these teams on the court, both offensively and defensively. I will say that Illinois' offensive output will be lower than what they have had this season, and so will Wake Forests. How much, is where the guess work comes in.

My prediction based on these team numbers

Illinois: 82
Wake Forest: 79

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