CuseNation.com spoke with DemonDeaconDigest.com publisher Les Johns to break down a Wake Forest squad that enters Tuesday night's game against Syracuse 12-7 on the year, including 3-4 in conference play. They are on a two game winning streak, having knocked off Miami and won at NC State.
What can the Orange expect from the Demon Deacons, who average 82 points per game and make nearly 39% of their three-point attempts as a team?
CN: Who are the top offensive and defensive players for Wake this year? Give a scouting report of each.
Johns: Top offensive threat for the Deacs is sophomore forward John Collins, who was named ACC Player of the Week for his efforts in wins last week over Miami and North Carolina State. When Wake’s offense is at its best, Collins is involved often. He is prone to foul problems, however, which limits him to just 24.4 minutes played per game. His offensive efficiency rating is through the roof, however, and he leads Wake at 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.
Collins wants to get deep post position and finish at the rim, but also has solid moves around the basket and a dependable mid-range jumper. He finishes through contact and is a 71.4 percent foul shooter.
The Deacs are a team defensive unit that will hedge on high ball screens and communicate well with each other to correct any mistakes through a possession. No one player would rightly be considered a “stopper” on defense, and the team as a whole still has a long way to go on that side of the ball.
CN: What are the strengths and weaknesses of Danny Manning's bunch?
Johns: The Deacs have the No. 13 KenPom ranked offense in the country, and tallied a total of 189 points in their two wins last week. They move the ball well and are much-improved shooters, both behind the arc and from the foul stripe. They are balanced offensively, and have at least four different players who could lead them in scoring on any given night.
Weaknesses include both defense and youth. They’ve had difficulty closing out games, surrendering a late-game 15-point lead to hapless Clemson — a loss that is particularly haunting now that they’ve started to put things together. If Wake continues to put a few wins together, that late game collapse to Clemson could potentially be the loss that puts them on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble.
CN: How do you say Wake attacking the 2-3 zone?
Johns: They have plenty of capable shooters, but Wake is going to want to get the ball into the paint early and often — either through post play or drives through the heart of the Syracuse defense. Many of head coach Danny Manning’s lineups will feature four reliable 3-point threats. The Deacs average 20 3-point attempts a game, and are hitting 38.7 percent on the season.
CN: What style does Wake play defensively and how successful have they been this season?
Johns: Wake normally goes man-to-man, and as stated earlier they hedge on all high ball screens. They are good, communicative helpers on defense but still are far from efficient. They allow 75.6 points per game, and ranked No. 124 by KenPom in defense efficiency.
CN: How has Wake been on the road? Will the Carrier Dome be a challenge for them?
Johns: Wake has won one of their last one ACC games on the road. Joking aside, the win Saturday at North Carolina State was the Deacs first conference road win in the Danny Manning era, with this being his third year at the helm. It had been 25 games with a loss in a row for Wake on the road in the ACC, so there’s been a long run of futility.
The Carrier Dome will be a challenge, but a couple players have experience there (Dinos Mitoglou and Mitchell Wilbekin), which should help.