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Previewing Wake Forest

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Wake's scouting report really illustrates how dire their guard situation is. Of the five Wake players with offensive ratings above 100, four are forwards (unless you want to count Strickland as a guard).

After enjoying two years as one of the most efficient offenses in the country, the Deacs have seen a significant decline in 2006. They're still good enough to be scary.

Wake Offense 05-06Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%53.046Turnover Rate24.3273Off Reb Rate40.912FTM/FGA32.78
Wake Forest scores 23.6% of its points from the line, the 34th-highest proportion in the country. Getting offensive rebounds and drawing contact off of those close-in second chances is probably one of the ways they generate so many FTAs.

We'd rather limit their freebies, even if it is Eric Williams taking a lot of them. We don't want to shorten their possessions with fouls; we want them to have as much time as possible to show us why their turnover rate is so high.

As usual, we're dealing with another good offensive rebounding team. Check out those OR%'s in the scouting report--anything over 10% is good. The Deacs are not lacking for skill in this area. Just makes Cedric Simmons's presence all the more important.

Probable Starters:

Shamaine Dukes (6-1, 175) -- Could easily be Hale in this spot. I'll guess Dukes since he has started over Hale in 5 of the last 6 games. Dukes's O Rtg is ugly, but there are sample size issues considering he's averaging less than 9 minutes/game. He's not shooting well and has a hilarious turnover rate (52.4%).

Justin Gray (6-2, 194) -- Gray has taken on so many extra possessions this season that Eric Williams is actually using fewer possessions than he did in 2005. I'm wondering if Wake's offense would be better off if Williams increased his usage at Gray's expense. But that's not to say Justin Gray is using his possessions poorly; not at all. Gray is shooting over 40% from behind the arc and his turnover rate has been dropping now that he's been relieved of most of the PG duties.

Trent Strickland (6-5, 216) -- While his playing time has jumped significantly, Strickland's role hasn't changed that much. The extra playing time makes it appear as though Strickland has improved his production a little more than he really has. Witness:
O Rtg%Poss%MinPPGPPWSeFG%FT%Reb%TO%%ShotsStrickland 200510718.239.15.91.0952.659.211.620.117.3Strickland 200611918.078.712.51.2257.173.213.018.619.2
(Note: numbers are from my spreadsheet and will differ slightly from KenPom's data)
His usage and the %Shots are pretty similar, ditto for his per-minute production (points, rebs, assists). His shooting has improved across the board (including 3FG%, which I omitted), and he's turning the ball over less.

Kyle Visser (6-11, 244) -- He's tall.

Eric Williams (6-9, 280) -- I love me some Big E. His O Rtg is down this season because of his struggles at the free throw line (he's gone from 56.9% in 2005 to 45.5% this year) and a slight increase in turnover rate. His eFG% is still very good (65.3%), and he's still an excellent rebounder at both ends of the court.

Bench:

Harvey Hale (6-2, 186) has started about half of Wake's games and averages better than 22 minutes/game. He's coming off a strong performance against Georgia Tech, which could have him back in the starting lineup. His overall numbers are awful, though (see his O Rtg and terrible eFG% in the scouting report), and he can't use the sample size excuse. He's second on the team in three-point attempts (40), but has only made 25% of them. I imagine Skip Prosser typically flips a coin to decide between Dukes and Hale.

Chris Ellis (6-9, 267) and Michael Drum (6-6, 204) should also see a good 20 minutes or so. Both of these guys are handling their roles in an efficient manner. Ellis has been a big time offensive rebounder this year.

Kevin Swinton (6-7, 224) and Cameron Stanley (6-6, 214) round out the rotation.

The defense...

Wake Defense 05-06Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%45.954Turnover Rate19.0298Off Reb Rate28.845FTA/FGA27.526
From a points-per-possession standpoint, Wake Forest's defense has not changed from last year to this one. Their 2005 DEF EFF was 94.0; it's 94.2 (11th in ACC) this year. What apparently has changed, however, is Wake's vulnerability from behind the arc.

Judging by that low turnover rate, we shouldn't have to worry about too many forced errors. The Pack should end the game with a positive turnover margin--possibly a large one.

I don't think Wake's FTA/FGA is a concern. This is conference play. We're at home. There are no guarantees, but I will be surprised if Wake ends up with a significant FTA advantage.