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Heel Tough Blog: Wake Forest Preview

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Coming off of Saturday’s win at Boston College, the Tar Heels are back in action tonight, as they host Wake Forest, as two of the best teams in the ACC will meet. This is the first Saturday/Monday turnaround of the season, and it’s good practice to rest and prepare, as this is the same model you have to deal with in the NCAA Tournament. Hubert Davis wasn’t able to get his starters extra rest as Boston College pushed them to the limit over the weekend. However, Carolina should still be energized to play in front of a capacity crowd against a quality opponent. 

Steve Forbes has done a fantastic job rebuilding the Wake Forest program, since arriving from East Tennessee State. In the last two seasons, he has coached the ACC Player of the Year (Alondes Williams and Tyree Appleby), but the Deacons failed to make the NCAA Tournament, despite a lot of regular season success. With that, Forbes has put an even bigger emphasis on winning these types of games like tonight, against the best competition the ACC has to offer. After adding Damari Monsanto to the lineup over the weekend, Wake has five players that average double figures scoring, led by Hunter Sallis, and his 17.4 points per game. They are lethal from the outside, shooting 39% from deep as a team. 

It might be a little early to be looking at NCAA Tournament projections, but according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, he has Wake Forest among his Last Four In for the field of 68, and while that would qualify as a tournament appearance, the Demon Deacons are still looking for a win that will move the needle for the tournament committee. 

The Monday part of the Saturday/Monday turnaround is always easier when you’re at home, and that’s where Carolina is tonight. As great as Carolina has been defensively away from the Smith Center, they’ve been equally explosive offensively at home, scoring over 91 points per game in their at 8 wins. Here’s how Carolina can stay undefeated at home and in the ACC later tonight: 

  1. Defend 3 Point Line: Outside of the Florida State and Louisville wins, Carolina has held every other opponent to under 30% shooting from deep in ACC games. That will be put to the test tonight, as Wake Forest is the best perimeter shooting team Carolina has seen since playing Kentucky and is arguably the best in the ACC. There will be lineups that Forbes will use, where every player can shoot it from the perimeter, and their top four scorers all shoot 38% or better from deep. Hubert Davis talks about changing the speed of the game on the defensive end, and they’ll need to do that tonight. The full-court press needs to be utilized tonight, to take time off the shot clock, and not let them get into their action early and often. Expect to see plenty of Seth Trimble off the bench, to add more length on the perimeter to close out on Wake’s sharpshooters. 

  2. Get Them in Foul Trouble: This game will feel like an ACC Tournament game, and for Wake Forest, they very well could be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. When you think about it like that, depth is going to be a key, because generally the deeper team, wins the game. Wake really struggles to defend the paint, even with the addition of Efton Reid to their roster. That means that Carolina should look to attack early and often in the painted area. They need to establish Armando Bacot on the block, and then attack off the dribble off of that. Carolina ranks inside the top 15 in the country in terms of free throws made per game, and attempts per game, and needs to be reflected in the way they play tonight. 

  3. Rebounding: After struggling in the first month and a half to rebound the basketball the way we’re used to seeing UNC teams rebound, the Tar Heels have emerged as the best rebounding team in the league, and rank inside the top 20 in the country in rebounds per game. Wake Forest on the other hand, really struggle to control the glass, averaging just over 35 rebounds per game. Whichever team dictates pace and tempo, is going to have an upper hand, and the best way to do that is to win the rebounding battle. If Carolina continues to rebound the basketball the way we’ve seen since the win at Pittsburgh, it’s hard to imagine Wake being able to hold up over 40 minutes, making it easier to see Carolina winning this game. 

Series History:

  • Carolina is 164-69 against Wake Forest all-time, the second most wins against a single opponent in program history. In Chapel Hill, UNC is 80-18, including 25-5 in the Smith Center, as they’ve won 8 straight games at home. 


  • North Carolina - 7th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 119.6 (15th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.7 (4th)

  • Wake Forest - 36th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 117.8 (28th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 100.9 (57th)


  • North Carolina - 7th.

  • Wake Forest - 42nd

TV Info: Tonight’s game will tip at 7 PM on ESPN, as it will headline their Big Monday coverage. 

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