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Wake Forest and its lethal offense will be a tough road challenge for NC State

It’s been difficult for anybody to win in that building this year.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Wake Forest William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest ended up missing the NCAAs last season, but it was a breakthrough year for Steve Forbes nonetheless, and one built on the transfer portal. He struck gold there, and Deacs improved dramatically from his first season as a result.

Transfers are again a critical part of Wake’s success in 2023, and considering how many guys this team lost to graduation or the pros, Forbes has done a good job of keeping his program on track. This edition of the Deacs looks a whole lot different, though.

Weak dekes defeat Deacs’ D

... OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
... OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 113.8 (29) 55.0 (21) 17.2 (86) 25.9 (266) 54.1 (42) 37.4 (30)
Defense 103.1 (162) 51.8 (248) 18.8 (160) 25.5 (65) 51.7 (247) 34.6 (220)

Wake was a balanced operation last year, with a top-45 offense and defense, but this year has watched its defensive performance slide. The Deacs defended the paint well last season with multiple rim protectors in the rotation, but they are all gone, and that production has not been replaced. There isn’t a lot about the bigs on this team that’s scaring opponents.

The Deacs rank 280th in block rate at around seven percent—in league play, that number is even worse. Not a lot of disruption going on here. ACC opponents are shooting 53.6% inside the arc. Making matters worse, ACC opponents are also shooting almost 79% at the free throw line, which is a rough run of luck. When it rains buckets, it pours buckets, I guess.

Fortunately, they have an offense good enough to keep pace with anyone—they’ve been the ACC’s best shooting team in conference play while averaging 1.12 points per possession, also tops.

Tyree Appleby (6’0, 175) makes it all go: he’s a good shooter who is incredibly difficult to keep out of the lane on account of his waterbug quicks. He’s made half his twos this season, which is good work for a short guy, and shoots 38.7% from three. He’s excellent at getting to the line, where he’s money, and he’s been an outstanding distributor as well.

Nobody shoots more frequently while on the floor than Damari Monsanto (6’6, 225), who is taking over 30% of the team’s shots. Monsanto averages 19 three-point attempts per 100 possessions, a rate that ranks third nationally. For many, this would be a problem; Monsanto is shooting 41.1% from three, and so hasn’t had a reason to slow down.

Cam Hildreth (6’4, 195), a breakout contributor in his sophomore year, has proven a reliable scorer inside the arc, and just good enough beyond it to keep defenses honest. Delaware transfer Andrew Carr (6’10, 220) is shooting 58.9% on twos and 34.3% on threes.

Daivien Williamson (6’1, 180) is still there, still a valuable three-point shooter (41%). And there’s putback-and-dunk king Matthew Marsh (7’1, 250), who is 46-53 from the field. All 53 of those attempts have been at the rim, and 38 were dunks.

Wake has a lot of scoring versatility and one of the ACC’s most dynamic guards to head the attack, so it’s no wonder why they’ve been so effective. Can NC State figure out how to slow them down enough to nab a road win? So far only UVA has been able to win on the Deacs’ floor.

KenPom likes Wake by a point.