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Notre Dame Basketball: Wake Forest Game Preview

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A chance for the Fighting Irish to bounce back after another tough loss

NCAA Basketball: Miami at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

We’re into the last three-game stretch of the season and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are hoping to come back from yet another nail-biting loss. They didn’t have enough to overcome the Miami-Florida Hurricanes, who won 77-74 on Monday. The undermanned Fighting Irish coming oh-so-close to beating another ACC opponent has been the story of this season. Six of their nine conference losses have come by single digit margins.

As much as we have to admire the way Mike Brey has been able to get every ounce of energy out of his guys, it’s hard not to wonder how good this team would have been with a healthy roster all year. But hey, at least the FBI isn’t snooping around campus, right? Things could be worse.

Notre Dame will head to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons today, the second-worst team in the conference. Next week they play Pittsburgh and Virginia to close out the season, so getting W’s in two of these last three games is key.

Quick Facts:

  • This will be the eighth meeting between the Fighting Irish and the Demon Deacons, with Notre Dame leading the series 4-3.
  • The last meeting was on Feb. 7, 2017, when Bonzie Colson dropped 27 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Fighting Irish to an 88-81 win.
  • Martinas Geben is on pace to become one of only 10 Notre Dame players to ever shoot over 60 percent in a single season (in case you didn’t know, he DUNKS a lot)
  • Matt Farrell needs just 16 points over the last three games to eclipse the 1,000 point mark for his career.
  • Farrell will be the 61st player to score 1,000 points in his career for Notre Dame. Only Villanova, Duke, Louisville and North Carolina have more.
  • Notre Dame still leads the nation in fewest total fouls (367) and fewest fouls per game (13.1).
  • Notre Dame has made nine or more three-point field goals in five straight games.
  • On this day in 1912 - yes, 106 years ago - Notre Dame played DePaul for the first time ever and won 58-11. Now that’s the kind of win I want to see from the Fighting Irish today.

WHEN: Saturday, February 24, 2018, 3:00 p.m. ET

WHERE: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum

HOW TO WATCH: ACC Network with Tom Werme and Brian Oliver. Available on ACC Network affiliates across the country.

Notre Dame Basketball Radio Network with Jack Nolan and Zach Hillesland. Available locally on WSBT AM 960/FM 96.1, worldwide on WatchND.tv and via any network affiliate.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-17, 4-12 ACC)

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina State at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest has struggled in the ACC for several years now. The Demon Deacons are coming off one of their few conference wins this season - against Pitt, who hasn’t won a single conference game - but they haven’t been able to string two consecutive ACC wins together this year. Their only four wins have come against Florida State, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Pitt.

However, it is senior day for the Deacons, so they could come out playing with extra emotion. Only one senior has started in every game, and technically he’s a grad student. Terrence Thompson, a 6-foot-7 forward, is averaging 3.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

Wake Forest is led by junior guard Bryant Crawford, who averages 16.9 points, 4.9 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. Junior guard Keyshawn Woods comes off the bench but is second in scoring with 12.6 points per game.

The guy you were most likely to have heard about before today is junior center Doral Moore. The 7-footer is averaging 11.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, and I hate to say it but he leads the ACC in dunks this year (I hope Geben takes that personally). He had 10 straight games with double-digit rebounds until pulling down just nine against Pitt the last time out. Moore also has 54 blocks this season, so it’s a good idea to avoid him in the paint.

As a team, the numbers are what you would expect. The Deacons average 74.4 points per game on 44.5 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from behind the arc. That three-point percentage isn’t terrible, and there are four Deacons shooting better than 40 percent from range, so the Fighting Irish will have to get out and contest.

Other significant players for Wake Forest include sophomore guard Brandon Childress, who gets 9 points per game and is second on the team in assists, and senior guard Mitchell Wilbekin with 8.8 points per game.

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

Demon Deacon to Watch:

Bryant Crawford, G, Junior

It’s all too easy to just pick the leading scorer as the impact player, but with this team it’s hard not to. Crawford is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and he dominates the ball. He has taken 111 more field goals than anybody else on the team this year to go along with leading in assists. While we’re at it, Crawford has taken 37 more three’s and 78 more free-throws than the next guy too. He also leads the team with 31.9 minutes per game. The ball is lamost always in Crawford’s hands, so it’s safe to say that’s a good place to start playing defense.

Irish X-Factor:

Martinas Geben, C, Senior

In case you couldn’t tell I was alluding to it before, Marty G is going to have a big body to compete against in the paint. Moore is 7-foot-1 and 280 pounds, so Geben’s physically will be critical in this matchup. Two of the best rebounders in the conference going head-to-head will be fun to watch, but Geben needs to come out on top. Percentage wise, Geben gets more offensive rebounds than Moore and keeping that advantage is always important. A double-double from Geben will be enough for the Fighting Irish, but a dunk in Moore’s face will be the cherry on top.

Prediction:

Notre Dame 83 - Wake Forest 69

Wake Forest is one of the few teams in the conference that I’d say Notre Dame is better than on paper even with the injuries. All I have to say is Brey’s boys need a big bounce-back win to pick up some momentum before the ACC tourney. They’ll get the job done today.