North Carolina (14-3, 2-1 ACC) vs. Wake Forest (10-6, 1-3 ACC)
Winston-Salem N.C. – Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Wednesday, 8 p.m.
ESPN2 (Karl Ravech, LaPhonso Ellis)
“We have to do a better job of attacking the paint when we get the other team in the bonus. I thought we got Virginia in the bonus at a pretty early stage, and we didn’t get to the free-throw line enough times in my estimation, in terms of us putting pressure on them by driving the basketball.” -- WFU head coach Danny Manning following his team's 79-66 loss to Virginia on Sunday
Heels Continue ACC Chaos: Eight days after an abysmal performance in its ACC opener at Georgia Tech, UNC returned to its early season form in handing N.C. State its second-worst defeat in program history in Sunday’s 107-56 victory. The Tar Heels are at their best when classmates Justin Jackson and Joel Berry are both scoring – 89 combined points over their last two games – while they often struggle to find an offensive rhythm when one has an off day.
WFU Spotlight: Danny Manning’s third squad in Winston-Salem is a win away from matching last season’s win total, which highlights the significant step forward his program has taken. The Demon Deacons are still a work in progress, however, stockpiling wins against weaker opponents. Their 86-74 win over College of Charleston arguably stands as their best win of the season. Wake Forest has lost four of its last six games, including three of its four ACC contests.
Efficient Scoring: Wake Forest’s success this season has been rooted in offensive efficiency. The Demon Deacons are shooting 47.1 percent from the floor, 38.8 percent from 3-point range, and have four players averaging double figures. Manning’s squad assists on 58.1 percent of its field goals and is effective on the offensive glass (32.1 percent), which all leads to an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 115.3 (27th nationally), according to kenpom.com.
Point Direction: A primary reason for Wake Forest’s offensive success is sophomore point guard Bryant Crawford, who is scoring 14.3 points to go along with 5.9 assists per game. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder’s 2.3:1 assist-turnover ratio highlights his ability to take care of the ball while also finding his teammates in scoring positions. He’s averaging 6.8 assists against 1.3 turnovers in Wake Forest’s 10 wins this season.
Matchup to Watch: The Demon Deacons will offer a challenge that’s been a rarity of sorts for North Carolina this season: two quality bigs. Sophomore forward John Collins is in contention for All-ACC honors with his 16.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, and he also leads the conference in ESPN’s player efficiency rating (33.8). Junior forward Dinos Mitoglou is posting 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds, while adding the challenge of knocking down 38.8 percent of his 3-point attempts. UNC’s post quartet outworked N.C. State’s bigs on Sunday, and a similar effort will need to occur to prevent a Demon Deacons upset.
Stat of Note: UNC has won more games against Wake Forest than any other opponent (158).
Last Meeting: UNC defeated Wake Forest, 83-68, in Chapel Hill on Jan. 20, 2016. Despite the Tar Heels shooting 26.5 percent after halftime – the fourth-lowest mark by UNC in a half at the Smith Center – they scored 17 points off turnovers to maintain a safe working margin throughout the game. Brice Johnson led UNC with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the series, 158-66. UNC has won 11 of the last 14 games.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 15.4 ppg, 4.4 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 17.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg
24 Kenny Williams (6-4, 180, So.) - 6.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Projected Wake Forest Starters:
20 John Collins (6-10, 235, So.) – 16.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg
13 Bryant Crawford (6-3, 200, So.) – 14.3 ppg, 5.9 apg
44 Dinos Mitoglou (6-10, 255, Jr.) - 10.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg
34 Austin Arians (6-6, 230, GS) – 8.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg
01 Keyshawn Woods (6-3, 205, So.) – 12.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg