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First Look at Wake Forest-Maryland

Gary Williams is pissed off about the quick start, and so am I. A first look the day after a game? Humbug. I haven't even gotten to do my traditionally random and incorrect post after the game suggesting something completely ridiculous yet.

Maybe I shouldn't be complaining so much. After all, the similarities between Wake Forest and Florida State are indeed striking, particularly when it comes to rebounding and defense, and that does make this a little easier. But more on that later. Oh, and this is Wake Forestthe only team interesting enough in the ACC to do a series of factoids on

Unfortunately, this team lacks the amazing interest level from last year without James Johnson and Jeff Teague, both of whom defected to league. Luckily, they return the funny smiling and BB-gun wielding Al-Farouq Aminu and the oversized Jon Scheyer that is Chas McFarland, so at least we'll have that.

Unfortunately, Aminu has grown from the raw, long player he was last year into a top 5 player in the ACC, without a doubt better than either Johnson or Teague were.

Seriously, only two players are in the top 5 in both points and rebounding in the ACC, and Aminu is one of them (Tracy Smith is the other). Still thin as a rail, Aminu averages a double-double a game, putting up 17 and 11. Considering he's flanked by a 7-footer on his front line, that's more than moderately impressive. Actually, he's the 24th best offensive rebounder in the country in terms of percentage, and isn't much farther behind defensively. This will be the game Landon Milbourne proves his worth.

Wake as a team is pretty good at rebounding. This is the second time in two games - in three days, Gary Williams is happy to remind you - that Maryland will have faced a good rebounding team that significantly outsizes them. In a way, then, Florida State is a blessing-in-disguise, as its a great warmup game for this. Wake checks in at fifth in the ACC in rebounding margin, significantly ahead of last-place Maryland and slightly ahead of sixth-place FSU. They haven't gone up against the teams with significant margins yet, but I guess it's best to slowly work your up.

Just like FSU, again, Wake is one of the best defensive teams in the nation, too. They're 18th in defensive efficiency and a somewhat shocking 4th in eFG%. Continuing that trend, they're 2nd in 3pt FG%...sound similar to anyone? Yeah, FSU had very similar rankings just before that game. For a second, I was afraid I was looking the wrong page, but I double-checked. Like FSU, they play really tight man defense and have long guys like McFarland and occasionally Ty Walker chill down in the post to alter, if not block, shots. Aminu's length helps, and LD Williams is one of the best perimeter defenders in the ACC.

The problem with Wake when compared to FSU for Maryland is that they just seem an all-around better team, even if only slightly. They lack FSU's balance, but Aminu's presence makes up for it and they're still a relatively balanced team, albeit without a big 3/4 that Maryland has. Ishmael Smith is a legitimate PG and C.J. Harris and L.D. Williams are legitimate perimeter scoring threats (in a sense that they are based on the perimeter, not necessarily that they score from there) - FSU lacked both of those, and it's a reason Maryland was able to pull away. 

Of course, Wake Forest has one really big thing that FSU didn't: the crowd. This is the first real road test for Maryland, and how they respond very well may decide the outcome. I'm not of the opinion that Wake is so much better than FSU that if Maryland plays like they did yesterday that they'd lose or even win by less. The two teams are good, yes, but about equally so. The crowd, though, could derail Maryland's train before it gets started.

So far, all you've seen are quite a few positives for Wake with no negatives, yet I just said that they aren't significantly better than FSU. Don't worry, they're mortal, just like everyone else. Despite having guards, no one on the team shoots the ball particularly well, from deep or from the stroke. Actually, they're mediocre at best from deep, and tend to avoid trying 3 balls. Only bench player Ari Stewart is good at them and actually gives them a go from time to time, and he's far from outstanding for being a relative shooting specialist. They can get to the free throw line a lot, but then miss when they're there (they shoot just 65% from the stripe).

And really, they're not as dominant as FSU defensively, not even close. FSU excelled everywhere defensively, from rebounding to shooting percentage to blocks and steals. Wake is good in shooting percentage but not outstanding anywhere else on defense, and just plain not outstanding offensively. Solid, yes, but not outstanding. Nothing except Aminu and defensive FG% really blows you away on Wake Forest, at least not to me. They don't shoot it particularly well offensively, and despite their great shooting percentage, they don't force a lot of turnovers or completely control games defensively. 

Luckily, Wake doesn't have a Solomon Alabi-type presence. Chas McFarland is the closest thing, and the three times Maryland played Wake last year he was a non-factor. He's averaging 6 and 7, but I'll hold judgement until I see him out there. No player may be more Zoubek-esque than McFarland, and that's not a compliment. Then again, he's 7-0, and that alone is a nice plus.

The Demon Deacons are a tough team to pin down. Ever since Gaudio took over, they have been. They have limitless potential and look really good on paper, but they lost to W&M just as Maryland did, and they haven't beaten a real top-flight opponent yet either, at least no better one than FSU for Maryland. It's tough to get a handle on them. You get the feeling they could come out and shut Maryland down. You also get the feeling that Maryland could go out and win easily.

At the moment, though, I see a hostile crowd with a defense almost as good as FSU and a rebounding advantage even better. Unlike FSU, they have decent guard play with real point guards and a go-to player in pressure situations. I don't think it'll be a blowout, but I do see Wake grabbing a win on this one, 77-70.