Opponent: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Head Coach: Jeff Bzdelik (Buzz-Delik)
Last Season: 8-24 (1-15 in conference)
Player to watch: Travis McKie, the leading scorer and key piece since freshman year
I've watched this Wake Forest team quite a bit this year. While they played against sub-par competition so far they seemed to be a but better as a whole. Their returners got better, and they have some solid contributions from a good freshman class. However, they are not all the way back yet, as they lost to Dayton yesterday, and I am pretty sure that they will still be stuggling in the rugged ACC.
So far, Wake is off to a good start, thanks in large part to Travis Mckie, the face up four man who's built on his great freshman campaign and is who capable of making an All-ACC team if his team starts winning. He's a gifted scorer on the low block and in the high post, and can even step out and shoot the 3. He will be a matchup nightmare for us because ASU has nobody that is tall enough, quick enough and strong enough to properly match up with him.
Another player to watch up for is CJ Harris, who is averaging 20 points per contest and shooting 50% from 3 land. He's a marksman who's not too shabby when forced to go to the hole. The only weakness he has is his 67% free throw percentage, which is not indicative of his real skill (over 80% in 2 years).
Beyond these two the next 3 players are pretty solid: Tony Chennault is a freshman who's leading the team in assists (3 per game, to go along with 13 points). Chase Fischer showed that he is a deadeye, thanks to his performance against Dayton, and the middle is anchored by Nikita Mescheriakov (8.5 ppg, transferred from Georgetown two years ago)
Wake has a good core but has little around it. OUt of their 9 players that saw action, 6 of them played over 26 minutes per game. ASU must capitalize that lack of depth by driving hard to the basket and getting Wake into foul trouble. There's no way Coach Bzdelik will risk getting a key piece fouled out of the game early.
Wake has a good offense but has struggles defensively, and that is seen with the loss against Dayton. The Flyers shot over 47% from the floor and had a lot of wide open looks from 3 point land.
It's interesting to see how ASU will handle McKie and Harris. I suggest giving Mckie different looks but assigning different defenders at a time. We can start with maybe Carrick Felix and then work our way out from there if it doesn't work. Maybe more importantly, we must deny him the ball. We need to stop Harris from heading towards the basket and to the free throw line, but we must put a hand up whenever he takes a long range shot, because he will make some. Watch out for Fischer, he can also get hot from the outside. All and all, I am worried about using a matchup zone, because Wake will be content to fire away from long distance and will make some of those shots. Man-to-man seems like a better option.
Regardless, Wake Forest under Jeff Bzdelik will play a Princeton-like offense, meaning that they will make reads off of the defense and react from them. ASU must be careful about the quick play actions and the infamous backdoor cut. Communicate on defense at all times.
I actually have faith that ASU will stop Wake because we did so against a better Fairfield team. As bad as that game was, we only allowed Rakim Sanders to have a good game (albeit an inefficient one). We limited the Stags to a low percantage from the field, we are one freebie short of matching them in the free throw department, and we matched Olander basket for basket (11 points to 9). Our huge problem was the turnovers (22, tied for most in the Sendek era). We need to shore up the offense, make crisp passes and AVOID TURNOVERS.
Speaking of offense, we need someone who can score aside from Lockett. King and Felix look like good candidates, but I am interested to see if James Bachynski can repeat the performance (9 points, 4-4 shooting) against Wake. If he can, give him the ball. If he can do something like what he did against Wake, the Devs have an extra weapon, but more importantly James will open up the floor for everybody else.
Well, that's all I have to say about this game. GO DEVS