Duke vs. Wake Forest, Looking Ahead

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Looking for Duke/Wake Prediction for the 2009 match up, go here.

The Devils head to Wake Forest to take on the Demon Deacons. The key again for the Blue Devils is to not fall asleep on a team that’s not on their level.

Duke has been successful this year thanks in part to having so many great athletes that can handle the ball, allowing the Devils to spread their offense out, creating match up nightmares for teams with more traditional rosters. Wake Forest will not have that problem. They’ve got the guards that could give Duke fits. In fact, four of their top five scorers are guards.

However, despite Wake’s solid guard play, it’s one forward that Duke will need to worry about; freshman James Johnson (right). He leads Wake in points and rebounds. He’s a stronger version of Duke’s stud freshman, Kyle Singler, who will probably be matched up against Johnson all game long. The winner of this match up, could be the deciding factor.


Let’s take a look at the five keys to this game.

1. Road Worriers – This will only be Duke’s seventh official road game (excluding Hawaii and Madison Square Gardens). Although Duke is 6-0 on the road, that doesn’t mean they’re the road warriors. Duke has gotten some breaks on the road, either with injuries (UNC’s Lawson), or player suspension (Va Tech’s Allen). This time around they’re facing a Wake Forest team that’s feeling a little mo, after winning back-to-back games for the first time in ACC play. The Demon Deacons may only be 15-8 (5-5 in the ACC), but they are a solid 13-1 at home. They’re only loss at home was by four to Georgia Tech less than two weeks ago. Twelve of those wins have been by 8-points or more. They don’t just win at home, they dominate.

The Demon Deacons should have had a big circle around this game on the calender. Wake Forest needs a statement game if they want any shot at busting the bubble to the big dance, and #2 Duke is that game. This contest will not be a route, so the crowd will be on top of the Devils all night. They will need to keep their composure early.

2. Where’s Henderson? There’s no doubt when Gerald Henderson steps onto the floor, he’s the most athletic man on the court. When he drives the lane and pulls up for that patented mid-range jumper, all I see is a young Grant Hill. However, in his last four games, Henderson has struggled on the offensive end. He’s only shooting 29% (9-31) and made zero shots against Maryland. He continues to contribute with rebounds and assists, but he needs to remain that scoring threat for Duke to succeed.
2. Where’s Henderson? There’s no doubt when Gerald Henderson steps onto the floor, he’s the most athletic man on the court. When he drives the lane and pulls up for that patented mid-range jumper, all I see is a young Grant Hill. However, in his last four games, Henderson has struggled on the offensive end. He’s only shooting 29% (9-31) and made zero shots against Maryland. He continues to contribute with rebounds and assists, but he needs to remain that scoring threat for Duke to succeed. /

One positive note for Gerald has been his rebounding; more specifically his offensive rebounding. In Duke’s first 17 games, Henderson pulled down only 18 offensive rebounds (just over one per game). In the Devils’ last six games, he’s grabbed 14 offensive rebounds.

3. Twenty, every other game – DeMarcus Nelson has started a trend, that may not be that important, but we’ll look at it anyway. In Duke’s last 14 games, Nelson has always followed up a 20-point game with a non-20-point game and visa versa. Last game against Maryland, Nelson scored 12 points. Thus, we will guarantee DeMarcus will score at least twenty against Wake Forest.

4. The Freshman Wall – While Kyle Singler seems to just be hitting his stride, Duke’s other two freshman have (at least) started to sniff the dreaded ‘freshman wall’.

Nolan Smith, who for a brief moment looked better than Greg Paulus, has logged less and less minutes. In his last three games, he hasn’t played more than 13 minutes (only six against Maryland). The most telling stat has to be in the assists, or lack of. Nolan hasn’t registered a single assist in his last five games. Don’t get us wrong, Duke doesn’t necessarily need big assist numbers from their point guards because so many people handle the ball (hell, Paulus’ assist average has gone down every year). Zero assists though, isn’t going to do it.

For Taylor King, it’s official, he’s in a slump. He’s only 3-17 in field goals (2-13 from behind the strip). He’s barely sniffing playing time in the rotation, logging only two minutes in two of the last three games. We know he can shoot…really shoot. However, it is obvious he has lost some confidence. He’s a shooter though and we all know how shooters break slumps…they keep shooting. Keep shooting Taylor, we need ya.

5. Unkind February; The second month of the year has not been kind to Duke over the last seven years. In fact, a ten-day stretch between Feb 10th through Feb 20th has been especially unkind to Duke. The Devils are 10-7 in games played between February 10-20. Note bad for some schools, but this is Duke we’re talking about. In those games, Duke is 2-2 against the Demon Deacons, however, those two loses…they both came at Wake Forest.

BALLSY PREDICTION:

One important factor is the fact that Wake Forest has yet to face the two Big Daddy’s of the ACC (Duke, UNC). In fact, the Deacons have failed to really play anyone this season. They’ve twice took on a team ranked in the top-25, Clemson and Vandy (both were ranked #25 at the time). They lost them both. Wake Forest should get a real wake up call when they get on the floor against Duke.

Look for the Demon Deacons to ride an emotional crowd for a while, but Duke’s talent should take over by the second half.

Duke, 88-77

You can find post-game frustrations here.

*** Photo from ESPN ***