Monday, December 1, 2014

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Wake Forest

This Wake game just sucks.  Really sucks.  It's a total no win, big loss situation.  Wake Forest is not a very good team and they just lost at home to a horrendous Delaware State club so they shouldn't be scary.  That also means a win against them will mean nothing for their March hopes, and a loss will be a big black mark.  They'll be on the road, where they're always shaky, against an ACC opponent with one very strong skill (they're one of the best rebounding teams in the country and tops overall on not allowing offensive rebounds) in a game they can't afford to lose.  Doesn't seem fair.  They're going to be a 5 point favorite in a game where a loss is a major resume killer.  Sucks.  So I guess yeah just win.

The reason the Deacons control the boards mainly lies with the talents of 6-9 junior forward Devin Thomas, who 4th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 36% of all opponent missed shots when he's on the floor, adding up to 10.3 rebounds per game.  He's not a huge scorer (11.7ppg) but he's capable, having put up 19 against Arkansas, the best defensive team Wake has faced this year.  He mainly hangs around the bucket and is shooting 51% this year and he'll be a handful for Eliason and Walker to handle.  He also excels at getting to the line, drawing over 7 fouls per 40 minutes and having taken nearly as many free throws as field goals on the season.  I seriously doubt both, if any, of those two can avoid hacking away so that means we may see a hearty dose of Bakary Konate.  Sink or swim, kid, sink or swim.

The other Demon Deacon who deserves his own call out is Codi McIntyre-Miller, and not just because he spells his first name with an I.  He's a bit of an odd duck as a 6-3 guard who doesn't shoot 3-pointers (just 7 attempts this year), but's still managed to average 11.3 points per game this year though on 39% shooting.  He's the play maker and point guard for the team, though his assist numbers have taken a bit of a tumble this year and his turnovers have jumped up a bit.  The best news of all is that he's taking over 30% of his team's shots when he's on the floor with an eFG% of 39% and you know what that means - CHUCKER ALERT!  Always fun.

Behind those two there's a mishmash of 7 other guys who play 13 or more minutes per game, but none really standout.  Mitchell Wilbekin (6.9ppg, 1.6spg), brother of Scottie, is the other starting guard and a plus defender and the team's top three point threat (44% on about 4 attempts per game).  Cornelius Hudson (7ppg, 4.3rpg) starts on the wing and he's another great rebounder on this team, and Michael Crabtree's brother.  Down low Darius Leonard starts next to Thomas (6.6ppg, 3.4rpg).  He's not scary, though if it goes as expected and Joey King ends up guarding him who knows.  Off the bench Wake gets some scoring pop from 6-10 freshman Konstantinos Mitoglou (8.1ppg and 5.6rpg in just 18.1mpg) and 6-1 junior guard Madison Jones (7.1ppg, 2.9apg), another point guard who doesn't shoot threes.  There's a bunch of other guys here but Danny Manning mixes and matches a lot of guys, trying to find a workable and winning combination.  The seven I touched on here are the ones who should really impact the game.

Overall, Wake is a pretty bad team.  But they have a couple of big advantages:  They are a much better rebounding team than the Gophers and could end up getting a ton of o-boards while allowing Minnesota to grab zero of them, and they get to the line regularly and that's been the Gophers major weakness.  On the flippity flop, the Gophers create a ton of turnovers and Wake has been really sloppy with the ball this year, and even better most of their turnovers are coming via the steal and the Gophers are rocking the thefts this year.  Neither team can shoot though both share the ball well, so that's a push.  The way I see it, if you look at the four factors most highly correlated with winning basketball, there's one push (shooting), one where the Gophers have the edge (turnovers), and two go to Wake (rebounding, free throws). Add in Wake having home court and I struggle to see this going well for Minnesota.  Someone push the panic button.

Wake Forest 64, Minnesota 60.

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