Wake Forest and Duke will meet in the final week of regular season play in the ACC; can the Demon Deacons make this a competitive game against the potent Blue Devils?
TV schedule: Tuesday, March 5, 7:00 pm ET. ESPN
Arena: Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina
The final week of the season has arrived, and it’s a season that Wake Forest (11-17) would love to see end. They’ve struggled all year, especially in ACC play, and things are not going well in Danny Manning’s fifth year with the Demon Deacons. This team has actually won their last three Tuesday games, but these Blue Devils pose a remarkably larger challenge than those games against Pitt, Notre Dame, and Miami.
The player to watch offensively is junior guard Brandon Childress (14.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.1 apg). He had 20+ points in the Demon Deacons’ last two wins and hit the game winning shot against Miami. The big man to watch is freshman forward Jaylen Hoard (13.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg). Both Childress and Hoard struggled against Syracuse on Saturday, with sophomore guard Chaundee Brown (11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg) pacing the team in their last two games. This is a young roster, but it might be one of the least talented ones in the ACC.
Despite playing in that talented ACC, Wake Forest is a dreadful 189th in KenPom, anchored by their poor play for most of the year. The Demon Deacons are one of the nation’s worst teams by efficient field goal percentage (341st) and ranked near the bottom in making and defending 2-point shots. They don’t shoot 3-pointers much better, but they are at least 26th in offensive rebounding.
Even as they wait for injured star Zion Williamson’s return, Duke (25-4) remains one of this nation’s best teams. When they get Williamson back, these Blue Devils will be one of the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament. They’ve recently lost to North Carolina and Virginia Tech without Williamson but blew out Miami by 30 points on Saturday. This is a potent Duke squad with plenty of elite players.
In Zion’s absence, freshman forward RJ Barrett (23.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) has really stood out, pacing the Blue Devils in scoring during Williamson’s absence. Freshman forward Cam Reddish (14.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg) is another standout player and these three freshmen will all be taken very early in the NBA draft. Junior center Marques Bolden has been playing well with Zion out, scoring 15 in their win over the Hurricanes. This Duke team is deep and full of young talent.
The Blue Devils check in at 3rd on KenPom, 2nd in offensive efficiency and 4th in defensive efficiency. They play at a fast pace and are one of the nation’s best teams at grabbing offensive rebounds. There have been struggles shooting from outside, especially from sharpshooter Jack White, but few teams are as lethal down low, especially when Williamson is in the lineup.
For the Demon Deacons, they have an enormous challenge on their hands. They already lost by 22 to Duke at home and finding a way to muster enough offense on the road might not be reasonable. They need to find a way to shoot the ball and defend the fast break or Duke is going to roll. If these Blue Devils can hit some outside shots early, then this game might be over before the first timeout.
It’s uncertain at this point if Zion Williamson will play, but this won’t be much of a game with or without him. The Demon Deacons don’t pose much more of a threat than the Miami team that Duke flattened and you should expect a similar result.