Tonight, a huge in-state matchup will be played in Raleigh as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons pay a visit to PNC Arena to take on the Wolfpack of NC State. Being the first ACC game for each team, as well as the first game between two ACC teams at all this season, this game will have a large impact for both teams. The winner rises immediately to the top of the standings, while the loser falls to the bottom. While it is strange to see a conference game so early in the season, this matchup should be a good one, and it will give early insight into the competitive nature of both teams come ACC play.
For Wake Forest, tonight is a huge game. So far this year, the Demon Deacons are 4-4 and are coming off a recent home loss to Minnesota in the Big 10-ACC Challenge. Wake Forest has certainly not gotten off to the greatest of starts, and it showed in the Minnesota game, as sloppy defense, turnovers, and an all-around lack of spirit led to a 15 point loss. So far this year, Wake has seen other losses like this one, and they are looking to rebound against NC State tonight. In order to rebound, Wake will likely need their guards to step up. In one of last year’s contests with NC State, Codi Miller-McIntyre dropped 20 points on 7-11 shooting, as well as the game winning layup as time expired to seal a win vs. the Wolfpack. When Wake visited NC State, Miller-McIntyre was the only guy who kept the Deacs in the game, scoring 15 points this time on 6-10 from the field. Last year, NC State had trouble shutting him down, and if Wake wants to win today, they will need to get him going early and often. Another presence that will help the guard play of Wake is freshman PG Mitchell Wilbekin, who logged an impressive 33 minutes against Minnesota, but failed to provide a spark offensively. So far this season, in wins for the Deacons, Wake has seen consistent and efficient play from both of these guards, and that will need to happen tonight for Wake to win. Meanwhile, we can’t forget about Devin Thomas, is a player who has played exceptionally well against NC State in recent years. Inside this year, the Wolfpack have been solid defensively and offensively. If Thomas is going to decide this game, it will be with his work on the offensive glass. If he is able to get rebounds inside and score on second chance opportunities, then it will help Wake out tremendously. Thomas, Miller-McIntyre, and Wilbekin will be key players in deciding where the game goes tonight.
Now we look at the home team. NC State has started off the season 6-1, with the only loss coming at Purdue, a game which was lost in the final minutes. The Wolfpack are 6-0 at home this season, and have shown some promise in all aspects of the game so far. The big question coming into the season was how the Wolfpack would fare without TJ Warren in the lineup. They have answered that question with lots of production from lots of different players. NC State has seen Anthony Barber, Kyle Washington, Ralston Turner, and others step up this year. However, the most production comes from Trevor Lacey, an outside threat who has solid point guard skills as well. Lacey’s clutch performances have led the Wolfpack to wins, and almost gave them a win against Purdue on Tuesday night. At times, State’s offense has looked a little off when Lacey is not playing great, or when he is not getting the ball. He is a dangerous outside threat and can decide the game easily, especially in the closing moments. However, paying too much attention to him allows for others to step up, most specifically Anthony Barber, who has shown glimpses of his full potential, and Ralston Turner, another outside threat to be aware of. This puts opposing teams in quite a dilemma, as anyone can step up at any given time. Wake Forest will have to counter this offensive attack by first taking out Lacey, but also taking out a couple other offensive threats for NC State. These guys would be Barber and Washington, who are both difficult to defend. Washington’s versatility makes him dangerous for other teams. NC State should look to use him in a larger role, and he could very well be a deciding factor today, especially on the offensive end.
Overall, this is a game that NC State should win. Inside, the Wolfpack are strong, as with the presence of Beejay Anya, they 10th in the nation in rebounds and 16th in blocks per game. If they can dominate the inside and take Devin Thomas out of the game, then they will have a huge advantage. Wake’s guards have been shaky this year, and if State can exploit that on both ends of the court, then they should win. Perhaps the biggest factor in this game is location. NC State has won 8 straight matchups with their in-state rivals when the game is played in Raleigh.
Final Score Prediction: NC State 79, Wake Forest 68
Time- 7:30 P.M.
Location- Raleigh, N.C.