Danny Manning is in his 5th year at Wake Forest and still looking for a season where he can get his Demon Deacons to a winning record in the ACC. The 2016-17 campaign saw Manning get his team to a 9-9 record in the ACC. Currently Wake sits at 7-6 overall and 0-1 in the ACC. Wake has struggled this year and against Duke could turn things around for Manning and crew.
Wake starts one 5th year senior, one Junior, two sophomores and one freshman. The Demon Deacons are led by a trio of double figure scorers. Brandon Childress leads the team with 17.2 points per game. Childress is also the leading assist man with 4.2 per contest. Freshman Jaylen Hoard averages 15.5 points and just under 8 rebounds per game. Rounding out the trio is Chaundee Brown who comes in averaging 11.4 points per game.
The last time out for Wake saw them drop their first ACC game of the season to Georgia Tech 92-79. The Yellow Jackets shot a whopping 55.8% from the field against the Demon Deacons who are hoping for a much better defensive effort vs a loaded Blue Devil squad. I asked Danny Manning how he plans to contend with a team that has so many weapons on offense. Manning remarked that his philosophy is to know the opponent. To know who you are closing out on and what their tendencies are and for his guys to realize that Duke is built differently rebounds aren't necessarily going to result in outlet passes and the person who grabs the board may trigger the break. His team has to be ready in transition and match up accordingly.
The Blue Devils are in the midst of a 7 game winning streak, and having won their first ACC game - a home game against the Clemson Tigers. Wake Forest will be the first true road game for the Blue Devils and a big test for this young core.
For the Blue Devils, R.J. Barrett comes in leading the team in scoring as he has all year with 22.9 per game. He also rebounds the basketball at a 6.9 per game clip, the freshman also averages 3.8 assists per contest as well. Zion Williamson leads the Blue Devils in rebounding at 9.5 a game, he also leads the starters in field goal percentage at 66.4% from the field. Williamson averages 20.2 points and 2.2 assists per game. Tre Jones leads the Blue Devils in assists, averaging 5.8 per game to only 1 turnover. Jones also averages 6 points and 2 steals a game. Duke enters the ACC season leading the nation in blocked shots and are 4th in the nation in steals.
This being the first true road test for the Devils will present some interesting challenges for this Duke team. Road games in the ACC are no cakewalk and Wake is in dire need of a big time win. Duke should have shaken off the rust of their 16 day layoff against Clemson but I expect that if Duke isn't hitting on all cylinders early that Wake will gain confidence and make this close than it should be. Offensive execution will be key or the Blue Devils, turning the Demon Deacons over and getting out in transition has seemed to get the Blue Devils in gear when the halfcourt offense is stalling but at some point Duke will need to put together successful half court possessions. Wake shoots the ball from 3 fairly well but outside of Brown and Childress Duke should be fine. Childress shoots the ball well over 45% from beyond the arc and Brown comes in at 36%. Jaylen Hoard is a player build in the mold of Duke's small forwards - a player that can drive the ball or play on the perimeter and it should be an interesting matchup against either R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish or Zion Williamson. I can see Duke throwing different looks at Hoard who may be their most dynamic player with Childress being the most steady and efficient.