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Wake Forest

College Basketball Pick


Things haven't gone as planned for Duke in ACC play and not many saw it coming. The Blue Devils entered conference play with a 12-1 record with their only loss coming to a high-ranked Kansas team when their top three freshmen were out with injuries. But with those three playing and Coach K having back surgery, this team has fallen to mediocrity as of late, losing a rare home game to NC State earlier in the week. Duke was already having problems on the road, but if it struggles at home, it's a wonder when or if this team will turn it around.

In previous seasons, Wake Forest would be a free pass for a team of this caliber, but that's not the case right now. The Demon Deacons have held their ground against good competition and could find themselves in the NCAA tournament with continued success. Winning this game may seem far-fetched, but it's not all that difficult to imagine. Wake Forest's success is led by its frontline with leading scorer John Collins and Konstantinos Mitoglou as big bodies in the paint that could give Duke plenty of trouble. Both those guys average double digits and lead the team in rebounding and Duke will need a method to stop them. Whether that's Amile Jefferson or one of the freshmen in Harry Giles or Marques Bolden, all will have difficult matchups.

One of the reasons Duke lost to NC State was because its big men dominated the paint with Abdul-Malik Abu dropping 19 points and Ted Kapita (14 points) having a career game. The difference between those two teams is that Wake doesn't have Dennis Smith at point guard. With a trio of Bryant Crawford, Mitchell Wilbekin and Keyshawn Woods, the Deacons are a bit small outside of the four and five positions. That's where the size of Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard come into play.

Another issue for Wake is that they don't do anything particularly well and aren't a great rebounding team despite the two guys down low. In addition, they don't force turnovers and are last in the conference in defensive two-point field goal percentage. To further that issue, Wake isn't much better at shooting the ball themselves, although has been shooting better as of late. According to the numbers, Duke should have enough firepower to outscore Wake, but the numbers don't always add up.

If Wake can win in the paint, it may only need one other guy to step up and right now, it's getting a couple. Crawford is the most consistent of the bunch, averaging more than 14 points per game, but Woods recorded 20 points against Miami and 18 against NC State, both in wins. Even Wilbekin has hit double digits in recent games. If those guys continue to make shots, that'll make this another extremely interesting game for the Blue Devils.

Duke already has a mediocre defense, so the opportunity for success is there for Wake. The Blue Devils may have the talent, but backing the home team may be the better choice here. Allen, Kennard, Jayson Tatum and even Jefferson can have big games, but we've seen nothing from this group to suggest an easy win on the road against a solid team is possible.

Our Pick - Duke by 2

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