The Kentucky Wildcats have not run into the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in a long time -- 14 years, in fact. The last time a Kentucky team faced off against Wake Forest, it was in the Midwest Regional Finals in Minneapolis, MN, and the great Tim Duncan was the anchor of that Demon Deacons team.
Lack of familiarity breeds respect, and respect is what Kentucky needs to give this team. First, a quick comparison:
|Rank and Records||WAKE||UK|
|Strength of Schedule||#29||#47|
|RPI Top 50||7-6||9-1|
For all you would ever want to know about the Wake Forest Demon Decons, be sure to visit Blogger So Dear, SB Nation's outstanding Wake Forest blog. Martin Rickman and his crew does a fabulous job over there, so be sure to stop by. More after the jump.
How They Got Here
Wake Forest managed a winning record in the tough ACC this year, and had quality wins over the Xavier Musketeers, the Maryland Terrapins, the Clemson Tigers and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets before they defeated the Texas Longhorns, 81-80 in overtime in the 8-9 game. They had only one really bad loss versus the William & Mary Tribe.
Their body of work in conference, plus their quality non-conference win against Xavier got them in as a #9 seed.
As usual, we have our game dashboard, courtesy of A Sea of Blue member Sylvar:
Four Factors Analysis
There is a vast difference between the offensive efficiency of Kentucky and that of Wake Forest, and that difference is largely related to a lack of 3-point shooing on the part of the Demon Deacons. But we'll get to that later.
Defensively, the Deacons are extremely efficient, even more efficient than Kentucky. That has a lot to do with their inside size and quickness on the perimeter. Wake Forest is one of the largest teams in college basketball, and their effective height is #2 in the nation.
The Demon Deacons have played considerably fewer games than the Wildcats this year, which makes for an interesting looking chart. But moving to the Four Factors, we see what we would expect -- Kentucky is a better shooting, rebounding and very slightly better ballhandling team, as well as better at getting to the line. But notice that the OR% advantage is relatively small with Wake, and it's worth pointing out that Wake Forest utterly dominated the Texas Longhorns on the backboard. Since a picture is worth 1000 words, take a look at this chart of the Four Factors from the Texas game below:
Folks, now that is what you call, "dominating a team on the glass." Rarely has UK ever buried an opponent under an avalanche of offensive rebounds like that, and this is an absolute caution to the Wildcats.
Moving on to the defensive Four Factors, there is virtually no difference between Wake Forest and Kentucky in FG% defense. Kentucky forces a slightly higher turnover percentage and takes better care of their defensive glass. Wake Forest also fouls a lot, which can be both a blessing and a curse to the Wildcats, depending on who they send to the line.
Moving on to miscellaneous, we see that UK is a much better 3-point shooting team. Now, I should also point out that Wake Forest is outstanding at defending the three -- #7 in the nation, as a matter of fact -- but they don't shoot it well at all from the arc. Predictably, UK takes many more three pointers per field goal attempt than the Demon Deacons. This accounts for most of the disparity in efficiency I noted above -- the absence of scoring from the perimeter by Wake Forest.
Wake forest uses their bench for somewhat more minutes more than Kentucky does, and the two teams enjoy a similar tempo.
Demon Deacons Roster
Wake Forest Demon Deacons Basketball Roster
|Al-Farouq Aminu||1||F||Starter, leading scorer and rebounder||215||6-9||sophomore|
|C.J. Harris||11||G||Major reserve||175||6-2||freshman|
|Ishmael Smith||10||G||Starter, leading asst,||175||6-0||senior|
|Ari Stewart||20||F||Major reserve||200||6-7||freshman|
|Konner Tucker||25||G||Reserve (former UK signee)||175||6-4||sophomore|
|Tony Woods||55||C||Major reserve||245||6-11||sophomore|
Demon Deacons Player Stats
Wake Forest is a big team with plenty of talent and at least one NBA first-round draft pick, Al-Farouq Aminu. Wake is an excellent rebounding team, and is 19th in the nation in OR%. Of course, Kentucky is even better in that statistic than Wake at #8 in the nation. Wake Forest likes to keep the pace fairly high, much like UK does, so it would seem likely that unless Dino Gaudio decides to try to take away Kentucky's advantage in team speed (which isn't that great against Wake with blur Ishmael Smith in the game, as he usually is), this game should be an entertaining, up and down affair.
What separates these two teams is perimeter shooting -- Wake Forest is a poor three-point shooting team but a great three-point defensive team. They are also very effective in 2-point FG defense, coming in #16 in the nation in that stat, as you would expect for such a talented, tall team.
But where Wake will try to make its living on Kentucky is on the offensive glass, and if the 'Cats let them do that, this could be a very difficult game. Both these teams have effectively similar strengths in rebounding and team speed, which makes for an interesting matchup. It's worthwhile to note that Texas was also a very good offensive rebounding team, and Wake Forest made mincemeat out of them on the boards.
A fun matchup in this game will be Ishmael Smith versus either Wall or Bledsoe. Smith is small at about 6' tall, but he is extremely fast with and without the ball, maybe even faster than Wall and Bledsoe. He can get to the rim and finish, and dishes the ball almost as well as John Wall.
Kentucky will really need to focus on making defensive rebounding a priority. While Wake is solid defensively, if they don't get the benefit of stick-backs and have to try to compete with Kentucky without an offensive rebounding advantage, this game becomes a major mismatch absent some uncharacteristically good 3-point shooting from the Demon Deacons (or poor shooting from Kentucky). The statistics say that if you can beat Wake Forest on the glass, they simply can't muster enough offensive firepower to beat a team as offensively ordinary as the North Carolina Tar Heels, let alone a scoring monster like Kentucky.