Preview: Wake Forest @ No. 10 Notre Dame

Notre Dame could have its hands full against the Demon Deacons, who have won three-of-five with a narrow miss at Virginia. Wake Forest is led by rebounding machine Devin Thomas, although the visitors from Winston-Salem, N.C., can light it up from distance.

• Game 27: Wake Forest (12-14, 4-9) @ No. 10 Notre Dame (22-4, 10-3)
• Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
• Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPNU
• Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
• Location: Winston-Salem, N.C.
• Nickname: Demon Deacons
• 2013-14 record: 17-16 (6-12 in ACC)

Wake Forest Head Coach
Danny Manning (1st year at Wake Forest) -- Career record: 50-43 in 3rd year as head coach (38-29 in two years at Tulsa; 12-14 in first year at Wake Forest).

Manning, 48, served five years as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Kansas, where he set a Big Eight record with 2,951 points while leading the Jayhawks to the national championship. Manning was the No. 1 overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1988 draft. He played 15 years in the NBA, scoring 12,367 points and grabbing 4,615 rebounds.

Manning landed his first head-coaching job at Tulsa, where he led the Golden Hurricane to the NCAA tournament in his second season. That led to the job at Wake Forest.

Wake Forest Scouting Report
The Demon Deacons are an improving basketball team and one of the nation’s top rebounding outfits, led by 6-foot-9, 245-pound junior Devin Thomas, who is averaging 9.4 rebounds and 12.3 points per contest. He’s grabbed at least 10 rebounds in 13 games this season, including five straight games at one point in ACC play. Thomas tossed in 31 points against Louisville with 11 rebounds, and then followed that up with a 24-point effort against Duke.

Another clutch player for the Demon Deacons is 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior Codi Miller-McIntyre, who’s scored in double figures in 19 games this season, including 23 against North Carolina State, 25 versus Florida State, 20 against North Carolina and 24 at Syracuse. Most of Miller-McIntyre’s scoring comes from inside the arc.

Three players do most of the damage from three-point range: 6-foot-10, 225-pound Konstantinos Mitoglou from Greece, 6-foot-6, 180-pound freshman Cornelius Hudson, and 6-foot-1, 165-pound freshman Mitchell Wilbeken.

Mitoglou is on fire from beyond the arc, converting 21-of-36 – an astonishing 58.3 percent – in the last five games, including a 6-of-12 effort against Virginia’s sticky defense Saturday. Mitoglou averages 9.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Hudson has made 10-of-21 from beyond the arc in the last four games while Wilbeken has connected on at least one long-range shot in eight straight games. Hudson averages 7.8 points per game; Wilbeken scores at a 7.7 clip.
 
Wake Forest-Notre Dame Preview
Danny Manning’s first year in Winston-Salem got off to a very rocky start. The Demon Deacons went 5-5 in their first 10 non-conference games, including a 30-point loss at Arkansas, a 15-point loss to Minnesota, and setbacks to Iona and Delaware State.

It didn’t get much better when conference play started as Wake Forest lost their first three, and seven of their first eight. During a four-game losing streak, the Deacons lost by three in overtime at Syracuse, by two at Clemson and by six at Florida State in double-overtime.

It appears the rockiest part is behind the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest has won three of its last five, including a four-point win over North Carolina State and a two-pointer over Miami. Although they lost by 14 at Georgia Tech – another losing yet competitive squad – the Demon Deacons came within a point at No. 2 Virginia Saturday.

Meanwhile, a well-rested Irish squad – it’s been a week since the Irish defeated Clemson by two in Littlejohn Coliseum – returns to the hardwood, hoping to solidify their slight hold on the No. 2 spot in the ACC at 10-3, one victory ahead of third-place Duke.

Wake Forest has the No. 16 rebounding team in the country, led by 6-foot-9, 245-pound Devin Thomas, who was a beast in two games against the Irish last year, both won by the Demon Deacons. Thomas scored 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting in a 65-58 victory at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum during the regular season, and then mercifully brought Notre Dame’s 2013-14 season to a close in the ACC tournament with a 19-point, 10-rebound effort in Wake’s 81-69 victory. In fact, Notre Dame is 0-3 all-time versus Wake Forest, including a 2000 NIT championship loss in Madison Square Garden.

The Irish need 6-foot-10 junior Zach Auguste to come alive again after scoring just two points combined in road games against Duke and Clemson. The question is will Auguste be the guy that shot 11-of-15 for 26 points with seven rebounds at home against Florida State, or the one who was a combined 3-of-10 for eight points against Virginia and Miami at Purcell. The Irish will need him against Thomas and Wake’s solid rebounding squad.

Once the Irish break a sweat, their energy level should be high, led by catalysts Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and Demetrius Jackson. Notre Dame is going to have to defend the arc in addition to pounding the backboards. Wake Forest’s Konstantinos Mitoglou and the Deacs are on fire from the three-point line, and visiting teams almost always shoot well at Purcell Pavilion.

Wake Forest has been competitive on the road and is due for a breakthrough after losing on its first six trips in the ACC. Four of those road losses are by a combined 12 points and three overtimes.

Notre Dame has failed to cover each of their last four home games, so if the pattern holds, this is a single-digit game still in doubt down the stretch. This is a challenging match-up for the Irish, one that the Demon Deacons are capable of winning.

• Pointspread: Notre Dame by 11 ½
• Irish Illustrated Prediction: Notre Dame 78, Wake Forest 73
• Season record: 18-8 straight up; 10-8 vs. points


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