#3 Villanova Wildcats (3-0) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-0)
When: Friday, November 18, 2016, 1:30 p.m.
Where: TD Arena, Charleston, S.C.
KenPom Prediction: 83-70, Villanova (88%)
Wake Forest’s Previous Season Record: 11-20
Key Players for Wake Forest: #20 John Collins (6-10, 235) So., F; #44 Konstantinos Mitoglou (6-10, 255) Jr., F; #13 Bryant Crawford (6-3, 200) So., G
Scouting Report: Wake Forest is coming off of their best offensive performance in nearly a decade, knocking off UTEP 103-81 in the first round of the Charleston Classic. The Demon Deacons have experienced playing top-shelf opponents as a member of the brutal ACC, but they have fallen from their once great heights. Gone are the days of Tim Duncan, Chris Paul, or even Al-Farouq Aminu, as Wake Forest is in full-on rebuilding mode. Leading the way for the Demon Deacons this season is John Collins, who has taken a giant leap forward from his sophomore season. Collins is averaging a team-high 20.3 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game. He’s thriving in an expanded role after playing mainly as a sparkplug off the bench last season. His explosiveness and athleticism making him quite dangerous. However, he also lacked defensive discipline, averaging almost three fouls per game in only 14 minutes. If he can improve his basketball IQ, he could become one of the most versatile players in the ACC. In tandem with Collins, the Wake Forest is Greek import Konstantinos Mitoglou. Mitoglou is a lanky stretch forward, but don’t let his lack of muscle fool you. He can compete for rebounds with just about anyone in the nation. So far, he’s averaging 12.6 points per game and 6.6 boards per game. Mitoglou is a lackluster defender, however, and has trouble converting his length into shot-blocking ability. However, the most efficient player for Wake Forest so far has been Charlotte transfer Keyshawn Woods, shooting a scorching 74 percent from the field. He’s not just knocking his shots down from close range, but also from beyond the arc, too. As talented as he is offensively, he can be considered somewhat of a defensive liability, and is probably what’s stopping him from getting more playing time. Also looking to make themselves known in the game tomorrow are Bryant Crawford, a double-digit scorer who is looking to build on a strong freshman campaign, but one that called his shot selection and basketball IQ into question. Also keep an eye out for Mitchell Wilbekin, who provides floor spacing for Woods and Crawford–shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc this year–and Austin Arians, a starter known for his defensive prowess.
Outlook: While the Demon Deacons are not a powerhouse, they certainly aren’t afraid to play against those top-tier teams. Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning is no stranger to the spotlight, as a 15-year NBA veteran who was drafted first overall. He has instilled that same mentality into his team. Last year, Wake Forest beat Indiana in non-conference play and lost by one to Virginia, who eventually made the Elite Eight. Can Wake Forest repeat their non-conference glory again this year and knock off the defending champs? In short, probably not. Wake Forest is incredibly raw, and expect Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins to pick apart the lackluster Wake Forest defense and draw quite a few fouls in the paint. The most interesting matchup of the night will likely be Collins versus Darryl Reynolds, whose defensive presence inside is key to stopping Collins. Given the recent success of big men against ‘Nova, this will be a key matchup, especially when most of the work goes through Collins. Look for Mikal Bridges to continue to get starter’s minutes, as Wake Forest’s undersized backcourt is a perfect situation for Bridges to thrive. After a brief scare by Western Michigan, Jay Wright and the Wildcats will be looking to get back on track, and there’s no better place to start than the present.