The biggest surprise of the ACC season isn't that Duke lost, or that both Reggie Johnson (of Miami) and Reggie Jackson (of BC) are destroying the conference, or it certainly wasn't that N.C. State is squandering their talent. Nope: if you guessed "Wake Forest won an ACC game", you're right.
Wake is one of the worst ACC teams in decades, but last Saturday even they were able to find a conference victory. Sure, it was against Virginia, which is probably the second-worst ACC team this year, and yeah, it was at home, and okay, sure, it was only by five points. But so what? The Demon Deacons aren't going to go winless this year. Moral victory, huh?
Don't worry, though: that single five-point victory doesn't mean that Maryland should all of a sudden fear Wake Forest when they play tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 in the Comcast Center. Not only did Maryland win in Winston-Salem the first time around by 19, the Deacs followed up their first victory with a 24-point loss to Florida State on the road.
No, they aren't much different from the team that Maryland dealt so easily with back in early January. Here's more on what the Deacons looked like back then.
As a team, Wake Forest is still a dangerous outside-shooting team, with a 3pt % that ranks top 50 in the country and 5th in the ACC. They're also still arguably the worst rebounding team in the conference, as well as the second-most turnover-prone (ahead of only Florida State). They still lack a true point guard (which explains the turnover rate) and they are also thin in the post, relying a lot on freshman Carson Desrosiers for a post presence.
For a quick refresher course on names to know, Wake's leading scorer and rebounder is 6-7 freshman Travis McKie. McKie had a double-double against the Terps last time and dropped another in their win over Virginia; he's still rounding out his game, but he's going to be a special player once he gets some seasoning. He's easily the future of this team.
But as far as initial threats go, the biggest is 6-3 freshman J.T. Terrell. Terrell tends to be feast or famine: he is entirely capable of dropping 30 on a team if he gets hot, but he can also score 4 points on 8 shots with 5 turnovers. He's like an extreme version of Cliff Tucker. Terrell's a chucker and a sharpshooter, which is a dangerous combination for either team, depending on how hot he is on any given night. He's seen his production drop in ACC play, but when he's on, he's dangerous.
The biggest change in the roster comes in the form of Ty Walker's playing time. Walker, a 7-0 junior, had played just 8 mpg in the two games before the first matchup with the Terrapins; in the two games before this one, he's played 20 mpg. That's a serious uptick in his PT, and to be frank the Deacs could use it. Desrosiers isn't bad, but he shouldn't be receiving major ACC minutes at this point in his career. Walker has a lot more experience, and getting him on the floor is good for them. He's not a major factor in scoring, but he can alter a game defensively with his shotblocking.
The other big contributors include 6-2 senior Gary Clark, 6-3 sophomore C.J. Harris, and 6-7 sophomore Ari Stewart. Clark is the Deacons' third-leading scorer and a dangerous shooter from three - he doesn't pull the trigger all that often (only 1.7 a game) but he hits with alarming consistency, as he's knocked down 63% so far. Stewart is a versatile wing man who rebounds well, but when it comes to shooting, he's the opposite of Clark; he's taken over 90 threes this year, and is only hitting at a 28% rate. He's averaging upwards of 10 and 5 a game, though, so it's hard to complain.
Harris has become the Deacons' de facto point guard in the absence of freshman Tony Chennault, and he leads WF in minutes. He's been one of their most productive players in ACC play, including a 15 and 7 assist performance in the UVA win, and he's grown up fast. Unlike a lot of the rest of Wake's team, he's not a big threat from outside, instead preferring to penetrate for his points.
Quite simply, if this is game is close, Maryland has bigger problems than wondering about the bubble. I don't think you need me to tell you how disastrously bad Wake Forest has been this year. They turn the ball over a ton, they're only average at shooting, they're awful on the boards, and they play average-at-best defense. Their record reflects it. Maryland should be able to have their way tomorrow afternoon, but should have especially good days in the post and on defense, where the turnovers should be plentiful.
Really, you couldn't ask for a better rebound game than Wake Forest at home. Don't be surprised to see this one reach 25+.