Monday, January 16, 2006

Woah woah woah woah woah woah woah

That's right, get ready for Zombie Nation, giant bricks and swirly tops in the crowd, NazT dancing and the tie dye t-shirts to be out in force - it's Wake Forest on the road on Wednesday. Really, I find it hard to dislike Wake, mostly because growing up in NC I didn't really know anyone who went to Wake or was even a Wake fan, thus I never developed any strong feelings one way or the other. I liked Tim Duncan, Rodney Rogers and Josh Howard and thought Chris Paul was a whiny punk - a 3 to 1 ratio is pretty good (for example, I can't think of a single Duke player I've ever liked). Anyways, this current Wake team is a senior laden group with two guys anyone would love to have on their teams in Justin Gray, who played with a freshly broken jaw at one point in his career, and Eric Williams.

On the downside for the Jackets, Wake lost again last night to Maryland and is now 0-3 in the ACC heading into Wednesday's game at Lawrence-Joel. Quite frankly, I was really cheering for them to knock off Maryland, because playing a desperate and experienced team at home is never a good proposition. That being said, there's a reason they are 0-3 right now, and that's because they are scuffling a bit - including a loss to Clemson less than a week ago. It's the same old story in Winston-Salem, poor defensive play. Last year Wake was #76 in defensive efficiency, this year they are all the way up to #75. Unfortunately for Skip Prosser, he doesn't have Chris Paul running the show to make up for that weakness on the defensive end of the court, as Wake has fallen all the way off from #2 to #63 in offensive efficiency (stats from Ken Pomeroy).

If we take a quick look at the starters for each team (based off the most recent lineups), it's actually not as intimidating as you might think - without Taron Downey, Chris Paul, Vytas and Jamal Levy - Wake isn't quite the same team they were last year.

PG: Shamain Dukes v. Zam Fredrick II

This is probably the only time all season GT will have the advantage at the PG spot, because Dukes just isn't an ACC caliber player yet. He's young, and he's fairly athletic - but there's a reason he was an Atlanta area kid GT never pursued. Zam has played better of late, but both of these guys have been turning the ball over far more than either coach would like.

Edge: GT (slightly)

SG: Justin Gray v. Anthony Morrow

Justin Gray is one of the most experienced scorers in the ACC, and one of the best shooters in the country overall. He's probably still a bit better scorer than Morrow (which is saying something, because Morrow is a heck of a scorer himself), but Morrow is better at basically everything else on the basketball court, especially defensively and on the glass. I'll give the edge here to Gray on his experience and the fact that after watching the Maryland and Clemson games, he seems to taking his game up another notch recently as he tries to almost single handedly keep Wake in the ACC race. Don't think that's a knock on Morrow, who's having an All-ACC caliber season himself.

Edge: Wake (slightly)

SF: Michael Drum v. D'Andre Bell

It's a pretty safe bet that neither teams fanbases know anything about the opposing player here, as Drum is a transfer from Presbyterian College and Bell is a freshman who flew under the recruiting radar. Drum just replaced the enigmatic Trent Strickland in the starting lineup, though expect to see Strickland a ton in the game. Drum is basically just a hustle guy who can shoot the ball fairly solidly, while Bell has really come on of late as a defensive stopper and someone who can take the ball to the basket on the offensive end, to go along with a nice little 15' left handed jumper. I'd easily give Bell the edge over Drum, but since Strickland will really play "starter" minutes, Wake gets the slight edge here (depending on how solid mentally Strickland is that night).

Edge: Wake

PF: Jeremis Smith v. Kyle Visser

This is probably the biggest mismatch on the court, because Smith is one of the best power forwards in the conference, and Visser has been terrible this year - plus it's just a bad matchup for Wake as Visser isn't the most physical player in the world, and Smith will be looking to punish him. I would expect GT's gameplan to be to feed the ball into the post and make Eric Williams help on Smith, trying to get him into foul trouble. If Wake doesn't help Visser on Smith, it could be a long night for Kyle. Smith has been flatout dominant since the opening tip of the season, I don't see a reason for that to stop Wednesday.

Edge: GT

C: Eric Williams v. Theodis Tarver

Hooboy. The only thing that keeps this from being a bigger mismatch than Smith on Visser is that Ra'Sean Dickey will be playing a bunch as well (basically starter minutes) and he can give Eric Williams some problems on the offensive end, and maybe get him in foul trouble - which has been William's achilles heel most of his career. Williams is a heck of a player (22 and 20 against Clemson!), and our post defense hasn't been anything special. Wake really needs him to get going to have offensive continuity, and a huge part of keeping him out of the game is just going to be our guards denying him the ball and then collapsing on Williams once he gets it. Williams will turn the ball over a bit, mostly because he puts it on the floor too much, and he's a poor free throw shooter. All in all though, if Tarver/Dickey can play him to a draw - GT will have done very well.

Edge: Wake

Bench: Harvey Hale, Kevin Swinton and Chris Ellis v. Paco Diaw, Lewis Clinch and Alade Aminu

I'm not counting Trent Strickland and Ra'Sean Dickey as "bench" players because they are both going to get starter minutes. For Wake, all 3 guys off the bench are going to get serious time as Swinton is their best post defensive option, Ellis provides solid all around play (though he misses more dunks than probably anyone in the country) and Harvey Hale hustles his butt off and can shoot the 3 ball. For GT, Diaw will play some PG to help out Fredrick and Aminu might come in a bit if Tarver or Dickey has foul trouble - but I don't expect to see a ton of either. Clinch on the other hand is the best player off either teams bench, and now that he's finally healthy is a big time scoring threat. He showed over the weekend that he isn't intimidated playing on the road in the ACC, we'll find out how well he can keep his intensity up. Slight edge to Wake on the bench because of the experience of Ellis and a bit more "quality" depth with Mario West out for GT - but Clinch could erase that advantage with another 6-10 shooting night.

Edge: Wake (Slight)

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I like to bring in guest bloggers to give us a preview from the other team's perspective - but in this case there really isn't a Wake Forest blogger I know of (if there is one, I'd appreciate a link). Instead, I've asked a folks from, my second favorite message board because of it's quirky and humorous outlook to post in the comments section their thoughts about the game and how wrong my breakdown of Wake's players really is. I'm looking forward to this game, it should be a good matchup, and if we can steal a win in Winston it would be a huge boost for the confidence of this very young group of Jackets.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a lifetime Wake fan, your analysis seems dead on. In the individual matchups, it will be interesting to see how Morrow's height bothers Gray. He has had trouble getting his shot off with taller defenders in the past, as well as being a liability on defense.

Wake needs this game to defend it's homecourt and notch their first ACC win of the season. A victory by Georgia Tech would be a surprise as many predicted this to be a rebuilding year, a word that doesn't seem to be in Hewitt's vocabulary.

Should be a great game...

11:47 AM  
Blogger Harper said...

Nice comments Nathan. Look forward to GT gutting it out in a close one.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The key on Defense for Dickey is to make (or try) to keep Williams from setting up so deep. Tarver is pretty good at that - Dickey isn't very good at it, though other than not making guys set-up more than 3ft from the basket, he's pretty good defensively.


by the way Vad, really nice job with this blog.

9:10 PM  

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