Most teams choose animals (Tigers) westerners (Cowboys) or characters from Deliverance (looking at you West Virginia) to represent their school. I'll try to judge Wake Forest based on their team instead of on their mascot, the rebellious brother of the Quaker Oats man.
Why Worry about Wake?
If you click over to ESPN.com, or whatever stat site suits your leisure, and take a look at the ACC scoring leaders, you should have a nice “oh shit” moment upon first glance of the list. That’s because the two names just below Terrell Stoglin – CJ Harris and Travis McKie - have “WAKE” written next to them.
CJ Harris (Jr.) has gone from a role player his first two years (9.9 and 10.3 ppg), to a dominant scoring force for Wake this season. A 6'3" guard who was always adept at getting to the line (he hit 17/18 FT's against Miami last year) Harris is now getting his points from everywhere on the floor, and getting them more efficiently than any player in the ACC. He’s shooting 53% from the field, which is insane for a guard, and 55% from 3 point range, which is insane for anybody (5th in the NCAA). Last game, he buried Virginia Tech, and then nailed on the coffin with two clutch three pointers in the final minute.
Travis McKie (So.) is the more multifaceted of Wake’s two threats due to his size. At 6’7”, the 3/4 combo is brandishing a newly effective perimeter game (38% from 3 point range), and has blossomed into a legitimate full court threat. Although it was Harris in the final minute against VA Tech, it was McKie in the first 47 pulling down 15 rebounds along with 12 points to help keep Wake in that game. Neither of these two provide the uber-athletic challenge of a CJ Leslie or an Austin Rivers, but their production is undeniable (they’ve combined for 13 20+ point games this season). If they both play to their averages, this game will suddenly be on level ground.
The Deacs are coming off their best game of the year, upsetting an above average Virginia Tech team at home. Their rebounding - which had been a point of weakness - was uncharacteristically dominant, and the 2-3 zone held up inside and out (Tech was 6/22 from deep).
Why Wake should be a Walkover:
Last game Maryland got plenty of open looks against a below average NC State defense. This game, the Terps will face a defense that – last game notwithstanding - may very well be the worst in major conference college basketball. If you didn’t know (and I didn’t) there are 345 men’s teams in Division 1, and you need to scroll through a lot of them before seeing Wake on any defensive stats list. They are a god awful 330th in points per game allowed (77.2), 328th in opponents 3 point percentage (37.0), and a less embarrassing by comparison 288th in opponents shooting percentage (45.6). They allowed 84 points to a 5-10 Arizona State team, and gave up 83 to High Point in a 4 point win. Todd Bradford couldn’t coach a defense this bad (too soon?).
There’s really only one more scoring threat on Wake (Tony Chennault at 11.1 PPG), and then nothing even worth considering. Of the single digit per game scorers, only Carson Desrosiers shoots over 40% from the floor, and that 45% is diminished by him being 7 feet tall and being able to almost look down into the basket. So outside of the big 2 scorers, Wake Forest has precious little firepower to give as good as they get.
This team is almost completely unchanged from the one that Maryland waxed by 19 last season in Winston Salem.
What Maryland needs to do to win:
There are plenty of times this year that the Terps are going to need to rely heavily on Terrell Stoglin’s shot making to keep them in games. This will not be one of those times. In fact an overreliance on a cold Stoglin is one of the only ways I could see this game being close (the other is a team-wide case of the flu). If Maryland keeps the ball moving on offense, there should be open shooters because A) that's usually the byproduct of a 2-3 zone and B) Wake's 2-3 zone is probably an abomination.
Against all bad teams, second chances can give them a second life, so Maryland has to stake their claim on the defensive boards. It looks like this shouldn’t be that difficult, as Wake ranks 327th nationally in offensive rebounds per game. James Padgett and Ashton Pankey need to be at their physical, ferocious best, and Alex Len needs to show consistent effort for the full game. The Terps defense has looked good if not great for the most part this year, so they can’t waste solid defensive possessions by not closing them out with a rebound, especially against the efficient duo of Harris and McKie.
Speaking of those two, Maryland can do themselves a huge favor by cutting off half of Wake Forest’s scoring power. Considering Harris should be working off a bevy of screens to get open looks, McKie will be the easier candidate to defuse. Sean Mosley might be too small, and James Padgett too slow, but Mychal Parker could be the ideal fit. Considering his recent stretch of good play, Parker should get some well deserved minutes in this game, hopefully while locking down one of Wake’s premiere offensive options.
Maryland is 7-3 in their last 10 games vs Wake Forest, and this seems like an ideal opportunity to pick up their second win against an RPI top 100 team. In Winston Salem, I would still give Maryland a slight edge. But at Comcast, I think Maryland will get out to a double digit lead by half, and for one of the first times this year, coast to a win. Look for the Terps to continue to get better against a team with close to equal talent, but significantly inferior execution.
Maryland 79 Wake Forest 64