Wake Forest opens their ACC Tournament tomorrow afternoon against Miami. After losing four straight games down the stretch, the Deacons won the season finale at home against Clemson to finish 9-7 in the ACC.
Though they seem to be comfortably in the tournament at this point, a loss to last-place Miami is something the Deacons can ill-afford.
Bart is a blogger for Wake Forest at http://www.bloggersodear.com/ and he agreed to answer some questions of mine leading up to the games in Greensboro.
The Playbook -- In the loss to Miami in the first matchup, Dwayne Collins went off for 23 points and 11 rebounds, what must Wake Forest do to keep that from happening Thursday?
Bart -- We had a tough loss down in Coral Gables and had plenty of chances to win that game including a shot by Ish Smith on the last possession of the game. In that game Dwayne Collins was certainly the spark for the Hurricanes and we are rather fortunate that most sources are indicating that Collins will either sit out our game because of injury or will be playing in a limited role. The key for the Deacs if Collins plays is to make sure that we don't allow him to front and get the ball because he has a deadly drop-step towards the baseline that our guys were unable to stop both times we took on the Hurricanes.
The Playbook -- After the Virginia Tech game and until the Clemson win, Al Farouq-Aminu seemed to disappear for those three losses. He was even held scoreless against Florida State. What happened to him, and did the Clemson game (18 points, 12 rebounds) show he is out of that funk?
Bart -- Aminu actually played very well against State in a loss, but other than LD not much of the team showed up and we lost that one. Aminu had 7 rebounds in the first 3 minutes of that game in Raleigh. He did disappear when we returned home to UNC and on the road against FSU and the key for Farouq is to avoid early foul trouble and avoid turning the ball over. Against both teams Aminu was trying to do more than he is comfortable doing in terms of being out around the perimeter and as such turned the ball over too much resulting in a loss of confidence. In Tallahassee he was in foul trouble and was just not able to get things going against their zone. The biggest difference between those two games and Clemson was his ability to hit the glass and get some garbage points. Farouq is one of the best offensive rebounders in the nation and has a great idea of where the ball is going to land to get second chance points. If Farouq is able to get on the glass, he is going to have a good game.
The Playbook -- Are these the final games we are seeing Aminu in a Deacons’ uniform?
Bart -- Aminu has not yet announced officially as to what he is doing next year, but all signs seem to indicate that he's not coming back. He has not said as much, but I would venture to say that most Wake fans are thankful that we got two years from Farouq and if he came back most would be shocked.
The Playbook -- Wake is next to last in the ACC in three-point percentage (31.7), and Miami is near the top (36.2). Wake is also first in three-point defense (28.3). How do you see Miami’s outside shot affecting the first round game?
Bart -- Miami is going to need to knock down some jumpers in order to keep the game close in my opinion. Wake has a lot of height on the team which makes perimeter shots tough as opposing guards are constantly having to shoot over a higher target than they are used to. Wake also does a good job of forcing shots from outside as the shot clock is winding down which certainly increases our defensive statistics. If Miami can make 8 threes they will have a good chance to win the game.
The Playbook -- Before the four-game losing streak, Wake Forest was a surefire lock for the NCAA Tournament. Throwing the ACC Tournament aside for a minute, make Wake’s case for why they should be in if the selection was made today.
Bart -- Wake has a top 35 RPI and has played a top 30 schedule in the country. We have gone on the road and defeated Gonzaga, as well as playing a very tough Purdue team close for 35 minutes on the road. We played Duke to a tie for 30 minutes in Cameron before fading at the end, and have been fantastic at home. Wake Forest clinched their bid with a win against Clemson on Sunday. 9-7 in the ACC as well as a top 35 RPI is not going to be kept out of the ACC tournament regardless of what happens in Greensboro this weekend.
The Playbook -- Handicap Wake’s chances to make a run in Greensboro.
Bart -- Wake has a good chance to make the weekend for the first time since 2006 when the tournament gets underway. A very favorable matchup against 12 seed Miami should get us through to the quarters where we get another shot at Virginia Tech, a team that many Wake fans feel we are better than. The game in Blacksburg is considered by many to be an aberration considering the free throw discrepancy between the two teams and the home court advantage that Virginia Tech had. Wake is salivating at the opportunity to play the Hokies again this year. If we do make it to Saturday I think we would be pretty tired going up against Duke in what is essentially the Duke Invitational, but anything could happen. We played them close for 30 minutes in Cameron and I see no reason why we couldn't challenge them on a neutral court if our perimeter shots are falling. Wake fans will be very disappointed if we lose on Thursday, many expect to beat the Hokies on Friday, and anything on the weekend would just be gravy for the Deacs.
Thank you for having me and good luck to the Hokies in this year's tournament!
Many thanks to Bart for his help. Wake Forest and Miami tip off at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Once again, be sure to check out his blog at http://www.bloggersodear.com/!