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Notre Dame Basketball: Wake Forest Preview

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It’s safe to say...this is a must win for Notre Dame

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

After four straight losses the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-7, 6-5 ACC) have fallen out of the top 25 rankings. The Irish are in much need of a win and they can get it on Tuesday night when they take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (14-9, 5-6 ACC). Wake is coming in on a two-game winning streak and, much like everyone else in the ACC, won’t be an easy out.

Game Notes

  • The all-time series is tied, 3-3
  • Notre Dame won both matchups last season — 85-62 in South Bend and 69-58 in Winston-Salem
  • Mike Brey is 3-2 all-time against Wake Forest
  • Wake Forest is rated 33rd on KenPom.com, while Notre Dame is rated 27th
  • Wake Forest is ranked 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 139th in adjusted defensive efficiency
  • According to Vegasinsider.com Notre Dame is -7 point favorite

Where: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN

When: Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 7:00pm ET

How to Watch: ESPNews or WatchESPN

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (14-9, 5-6 ACC)

Head coach Danny Manning has the Demon Deacons trending in the right direction in just his second season on the job. Wake went just 11-20 last season and finished second to last in the ACC. This season Manning has already surpassed the win total from last season and has Wake on the bubble for an NCAA tournament bid. This is a team on the rise in the ACC. 11 of the 16 guys on roster are underclassmen. None are likely to be top NBA prospects, so this is a group that should stick around for a few years. Manning is building a solid program down at Wake.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

They have shown they can play against anybody as they have narrow losses to Xavier, North Carolina and Duke. They’re looking for a marquee victory and a win at Notre Dame would look real good on a tournament resume.

Last time out Wake took down an upstart Georgia Tech team 81-69. Leading scorer and breakout sophomore John Collins led the way with 20 points. Collins is one of the most improved players in the ACC.

Aside from Collins, Wake has two others scoring in double figures — Bryant Crawford and Keyshawn Woods.

This could be a high scoring affair as the Demon Deacons and Fighting Irish are two of the best offensive squads in the ACC. Wake is 24th nationally in scoring, while Notre Dame is 52nd.

We’ve seen Notre Dame’s size deficiencies highlighted during this four game slide. They’ll have their hands full again with a much bigger Wake Forest team. Starters Collins and Konstantinos Mitoglou both stand over 6’10”.

Three Weaknesses

Transition Offense/Defense: The Fighting Irish should be able to get out and run against the Demon Deacons. Wake is near the bottom in both transition offense and defense. They’re letting opponents get 20% of their shots in transition — 162nd NCAA. Opponents are also converting on 60% of transition opportunities against the Demon Deacons — 327th NCAA.

Wake’s transition offense isn’t much better. The Demon Deacons are getting just 19% of their shots in transition (162nd NCAA) and they are shooting just 54% in transition (234th NCAA).

Fouling/Free Throw Defense: After shooting poorly from the free-throw line in it’s previous three games, Notre Dame got back on track against North Carolina as they went 17-20 from the charity stripe. They should get chances against Wake as they foul over 20 times per game, which ranks 252nd nationally. Opponents are also cashing in on free throws almost 15 times a game against Wake (204th NCAA).

Scoring Defense: The Demon Deacons are prone to giving up points. For the season they’re surrendering 76 PPG (251st NCAA). In their six ACC losses Wake is giving up an average of 83.1 PPG. If Notre Dame can hit the 80-point mark, they should be in position to win the ball game.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Three Strengths

Three-pointing shooting: Wake can shoot it from the outside. They shoot 38.5% from three, which ranks 38th nationally. Woods, Mitchell Wilbekin and Austin Arians all shoot over 40% from three.

Offensive Efficiency: Wake Forest is one of the most efficient teams in the country. They’re averaging 1.11 points per possession (PPP). That ranks the Demon Deacons 24th in the NCAA.

Valuing the Ball: Much like Notre Dame, Wake does a great of protecting and sharing the ball. Wake is 31st nationally in assist to turnover ratio. Crawford, Woods and Wilbekin do a great job of running the offense for Wake.

Demon Deacons to Watch

John Collins - 6’10”, Forward, Sophomore

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Collins has been one of the breakout stars in the ACC this season. A year ago Collins was scoring just 7.3 PPG and averaging 14.4 MPG. Flash forward to this year and he’s eighth in the ACC in scoring at 17.6 PPG and fourth in the league in rebounding at 9.3 RPG. He also leads the ACC in FG% at 60%. Notre Dame is going to have to find an answer for Collins down on the block. Collins is also extremely efficient, almost automatic, at the rim. He’s shooting 75% at the rim this season and almost half his shots come there as well. Notre Dame might need to throw some double teams his way, but then again that could open up some three-point attempts for a team who shoots them well.

Bryant Crawford - 6’3”, Guard, Sophomore

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It seems almost every ACC game Notre Dame has a great point guard matchup. Crawford has been one of the best in the ACC this season. He’s second on the team in scoring at 14.9 PPG and leads the team at 5.9 APG. His 5.9 APG ranks second in the conference behind Dennis Smith Jr. of NC State. Crawford can also stroke it from the outside as he’s shooting 35% from beyond the arc. Crawford and Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell matchup pretty well.

Keyshawn Woods - 6’3”, Guard, Sophomore

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Woods is Wake’s best three-point shooter at 45%. He is a very selective three-point shooter though. Woods is not going to huck up threes just for the helluva it. He’s averaging only 3 three-point attempts per game. Last time out he poured in 12 points on 4/8 shooting in a win over NC State. He’s Wake Forest’s third leading scorer at 12.9 PPG and is also averaging 4.3 RPG and 3.7 APG. He acts as the second point guard on the court next to Crawford.

Pick to Click

Matt Farrell - 6’1”, Guard, Junior

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

I haven’t gone with Farrell in a while, so I thought it’s about time I go back to him. This is a pretty decent matchup for Farrell. He’s lethal in transition and his should get more than enough chances against Wake. Farrell has arguably been Notre Dame’s most consistent player all season. In Sunday’s loss to UNC, Farrell went for 18 points on 7-12 shooting. He’s yet to go through a tough stretch, but now that I said that he probably will. Nevertheless, I’m going with Farrell to lead the Irish to a win.

Prediction

Notre Dame 85 - Wake Forest 77

I’m going with the Irish and for them to cover. They are desperately in need for a win. With a matchup with Florida State looming, I’m going to say this a must win for the Irish.

I liked what I saw from Notre Dame’s offense in the second half against UNC. They seem to have it trending in the right direction. It comes at a perfect time too because Wake Forest is not a defensive juggernaut whatsoever.

Look for Steve Vasturia to get back on track. He scored 7 first half points against UNC, but just finished with 9 total. He’s not going to stay cold forever and a home matchup against a below-average defensive team is the perfect remedy for his cold stretch.

V.J. Beachem is coming off three straight 20+ point games. It would be nice for him and Vasturia to play well at the same time because that seems to be a rare occurrence this season.

It will be interesting to see how Notre Dame deals with the size of Collins and Mitoglou, but I still like Notre Dame to come away with a W here.