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College Basketball Pick
To have a chance at winning the ACC regular season title, you have to win road games against mediocre teams. That's something North Carolina failed to do in its opener, a 12-point loss at Georgia Tech, and almost repeated that at Clemson the next game. But with Theo Pinson returning to the lineup against NC State, the Tar Heels were as dominant as ever on Sunday, taking down NC State by 52 points.
Wake Forest is a team that will finish near the bottom of the ACC standings, but will continue to fight in home games, especially against in-state rivals. The Demon Deacons have battled in conference play, but only have one win to show for it and that came against Boston College. They continue to hang around through the first half, but like in the game against Virginia when it was tied with 10 minutes to go, they just don't have enough. Wake ended up losing that game by 17 points after playing tight the first 30 minutes.
These teams only met once last year and that came in Raleigh, so that isn't a great barometer. But UNC dominated the paint and took twice as many free throws led by Brice Johnson, who had 27 points and 11 boards in 24 minutes. That size will again be of concern for Wake Forest, especially if they get into foul trouble. John Collins has been a beast this season, averaging 16.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He's joined by Konstantinos Mitoglou (6.4 reb) as the only other player averaging more than five rebounds for Wake.
Those two guys will have to hold their own in the paint, otherwise this could be a double-digit home loss. Collins has been great in the last three games, but in the ACC opener, he played just 18 minutes as he dealt with foul trouble against Florida State. If Collins finds himself in foul trouble against the UNC bigs of Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley and Isaiah Hicks, then it could be another long day for the Deacons dealing with UNC's bigs. Another big part of the game will be making shots for Wake, something they didn't do a year ago, going 2-of-18 from long range. With five guys that have made at least 19 threes this season, one or two will need to step up and hit shots.
As for the other end of the court, it's almost a given that North Carolina will reach 80 points. With Meeks and Hicks bruising down low, Wake won't have anyone that can guard Justin Jackson at small forward as he leads the team in scoring. Joel Berry and Nate Britt also bring more to the table than anything Wake has and throwing in recently returned Pinson makes this group even better.
But the Tar Heels have underperformed in road games against decent teams and that's exactly what this is. The Demon Deacons aren't as big or as skilled, but if Collins can hold his own in the paint and guys like Bryant Crawford and Keyshawn Woods can continue to hit shots, there's no reason Wake can't reach 80 points, either. If Wake can finish strong, they should at least be able to keep the score within 10 points.
Our Pick - North Carolina by 14
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