Duke, Notre Dame, and North Carolina may receive most of the national attention in the ACC this season. But the Wake Forest Demon Deacons are a likely NCAA tournament team that can make a deep run in the ACC Tournament coming up in two weeks. Despite a 12-7 record in the ACC that has them in fifth place, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently projects them as a 10-seed in the Big Dance.
Wake Forest was our selection for our College Basketball Game of the Month when they hosted Louisville on Saturday (February 26th) as a 9-point favorite. They looked primed for a big performance on Saturday hosting Louisville despite losing three of their previous four games. They got upset by an 80-69 score at Clemson as a 4-point favorite in their previous game on Wednesday. But the Demon Deacons allowed the Tigers to make 53.7% of their shots which was the worst defensive effort in their last seven games and third-highest opponent’s field goal percentage of the season. Wake Forest only made 41.0% of their shots as well which was the lowest field goal percentage in their last 16 games.
A better effort against the Cardinals was likely when considering that they had covered the point spread in 4 of their last 5 games after a straight-up loss and they have covered the point spread in 5 of their last 7 games after a point spread loss. The Demon Deacons ranked second in the ACC in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency — and they were second in the conference with an opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 47.0%. They returned home where they have a 14-2 record with a +15.0 net point differential. Wake Forest holds their guests to just a 38.6% field goal percentage which is resulting in 67.2 Points-Per-Game. The Demon Deacons were nailing 49.0% of their shots on their home court which was generating 82.2 PPG. Wake Forest is usually a very good shooting team — they rank 16th in the nation with an effective field goal percentage of 55.5% fueled by a 57.9% shooting clip inside the arc, ranking fourth-best in the country. The Cardinals are vulnerable with their interior defense as they rank ninth in the ACC by allowing their opponents to make 51.6% of their 2-pointers. Louisville ranked 12th in the conference in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
Wake Forest can get into trouble against teams that force turnovers — the Deacons rank second-to-last in the ACC with a 19.9% turnover rate. But the Cardinals ranked second-to-last in the conference by forcing turnovers in only 14.2% of their opponent’s possessions. Wake Forest had covered the point spread in 7 of their last 10 home games against teams not winning more than 40% of their games on the road — and they had covered the point spread in 6 of their last 9 home games with the Total set in the 140s. The Demon Deacons had also covered the point spread in 8 of their last 11 games against teams with a losing record. They looked to be in a good position to secure an impressive victory.
Wake Forest rewarded our faith in them back at home to make a statement as they crushed Louisville by a 99-77 score. The Demon Deacons did allow the Cardinals to make 51% of their shots but they did hold Louisville to just a 3 of 18 (17%) clip from behind the arc. But Wake Forest made 13 of their 27 (48%) shots from 3-point range to help fuel a 58% field goal percentage in the rout. The Demon Deacons also got to the free-throw line 27 times where they converted in 22 of their shots. Wake Forest only turned the ball over 10 times which helped them find their shooting rhythm on offense.
All five of the Demon Deacons starters scored in double-digits. Head coach Steve Forbes’ team can put up points with any of the other teams in the ACC. They may get in trouble in the ACC Tournament against teams that are adept at forcing turnovers. Miami (FL), Florida State, Georgia Tech, and NC State all force at least 19.1% turnovers in their opponent’s possessions. But Duke, Notre Dame, and North Carolina all do not force more than 14.6% turnovers in their opponent’s possessions.
Best of luck — Frank.