Winston-Salem, N.C. - Lawrence Joel Coliseum
Sunday, 1:30 p.m., ABC (Brent Musburger, Steve Lavin)
Season to Date: With the loss of Chris Paul and several seniors, Wake Forest was expected to drop a notch -- but not to last place in the conference. The Deacs opened the year with two preseason All-ACC first-teamers -- Justin Gray and Eric Williams -- and were ranked No. 18 in the polls. But after an 11-2 start, they've been in a freefall to the ACC basement. Head coach Skip Prosser is at a loss for words. "As I told the players, I don't have too many speeches in my bag for a team that's 1-9," he said last week. I'm speaking anyway. I'm trying to make them up as we go along."
No Point: There are many reasons for losing 10 of their first 11 ACC games. There's the consistently porous defense (Wake is 11th in ACC scoring defense) and the inconsistent and underachieving frontcourt beyond Eric Williams, just to name a couple. But the biggest reason is point guard play. Chris Paul's departure left a void at the point that Skip Prosser has been unable to fill. Freshman Harvey Hale isn't a natural point, while freshman Shamaine Dukes is a natural point, but is way out of his league at this level. That leaves Justin Gray (19.0 ppg, 40% 3pt), who has struggled to find a way to both get his own shots and still run the offense. Combine poor defense and poor point guard play, and Wake is understandably ranked last in the ACC in turnover margin.
Size: While the backcourt woes are well documented, the Deacs do have a deep frontcourt. They are second in the ACC in rebounding margin because they've got 6-9 Eric Williams, 6-11 Kyle Visser, 6-9 Chris Ellis and 6-7 Kevin Swinton, as well as a good rebounder on the wing in Trent Strickland. On the offensive end, Eric Williams has held up his end (15.8 ppg, 63% FG), but Visser (who had a big game against UNC two years ago) and Ellis are frustratingly erratic and unreliable. As a result, Swinton is now in the starting lineup.
Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series against Wake Forest, 147-63, though Wake Forest has won six out of the last seven meetings. Because of expansion, the two teams meet just once in the regular season for the second straight year. Last year's lone meeting was also played at Lawrence Joel Coliseum, a 95-82 win by the Deacs. The Deacons and Tar Heels have split the previous 16 meetings in Joel Coliseum.
Projected Starters: 4 Harvey Hale (6-2, 186, Fr.) – 6.6 ppg, 2.3 apg 1 Justin Gray (6-2, 194, Sr.) – 19.0 ppg, 3.8 apg 33 Trent Strickland (6-5, 216, Sr.) - 13.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg 23 Kevin Swinton (6-7, 224, Fr.) – 2.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg 31 Eric Williams (6-9, 280, Sr.) - 15.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg Key Reserves: 55 Kyle Visser (6-11, 244, Jr.) – 5.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg 34 Michael Drum (6-6, 204, Jr.) – 5.2 ppg 00 Chris Ellis (6-9, 267, Sr.) – 4.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg 11 Cameron Stanley (6-6, 214, Fr.) – 1.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg 2 Shamaine Dukes (6-1, 175, Fr.) – 1.3 ppg, 1.2 apg
Williams ... Gray
Strickland ... Ellis