Game Preview: Wake Forest

Once again, Florida State is back in action following a COVID-19 pause that left them without three road games, and now return to take on Wake Forest in the Tucker Center. Wake Forest is a bad team, I won’t be spending too much time on them, this is just a great chance for Florida State to get back in the swing of things before taking on Virginia on Monday night.

Wake Forest is in their first season under Steve Forbes, who had some real success at East Tennessee State the last seasons. They’re a few years away from being a good team, but they’re playing like a mid-major right now, which is something we’ll get into.

This game will be at noon EST from the Donald L Tucker Center on ACCNX/your local fox sports channel.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-8, 3-6) Breakdown

I’m not going to spend too much time on Wake, going to save my energy for Virginia instead because it has been a long week. Wake Forest plays like a good mid-major team, which is fine until you realize they’re in the ACC. Between them and Boston College, trying to pick the worst team in the conference is a real debate. The blueprint for success is there, and Coach Forbes might have this team performing much better in the next few seasons, but for now they’ve pretty much bought into the youth movement and are focused on developing their talent for the future.

They’re 26th nationally in 3-point rate, and shoot a solid percentage from the arc at 35.1%, but are subpar inside the arc and actually take very few two-pointers. Wake lives and dies from the 3, and more often dies than lives. They’ve had some insane shooting performances though, which we’ll get to in the player breakdowns.

This team’s lineups don’t make a ton of sense to me, they continue to move lineups around instead of sticking with a steady few. Some games, they’ll start Carter Whitt who was in high school two months ago, and some games they hardly even play him. I’d love to see them fully embrace the youth movement and get these guys some quality minutes.

Ian Dubose is still working his way back from missing a lot of games trying to re-gain his form, but he’s the most talented scorer on this team. He was a 2x All-Southland conference team member as a 17+ PPG scorer for Houston Baptist, then transferred to Wake Forest for his senior season. Bucket getter. If he returns next season he’ll be a huge factor for Wake making their next jump. For now, he might come off of the bench and give this team a scoring punch it needs.

Daivien Williamson had to pick up a lot of the scoring while Dubose was out, and he had some really inefficient games in that stretch, with 3 ACC games scoring below 27%. He followed Forbes from ETSU and is a huge benefactor of it, scoring more points now in the ACC than he did in the SoCon. With Dubose being able to come back and handle some of the playmaking, he should be able to focus more on being more of an efficient scorer.

Ismael Massoud is one of the major shooters you have to keep an eye out for on this team. In their upset win over Pitt a few weeks back, he was a scorching 8/10 from 3, was unstoppable in that game. Pitt got desperate at the end of the game and tried to run a press they weren’t too familiar with, and it led to a lot of open looks and confidence for Massoud. If you can limit him from 3, he’s a negative offensively.

Isaiah Mucius is a great developmental story for this staff. He was one of the worst players on the team a few years ago, he’s carved out a role on this team and found ways to have success on offense. He can actually knock down a 3 consistently, has developed a couple of post moves that he can use against smaller players, and can consistently put up 10+ points in a game. These weren’t things being said about him a few seasons ago.

Jonah Antonio is another guy you cannot leave open from 3, and 91.2% of his shots come from the 3-point line. Run him off the line, and you stand a good chance of limiting him offensively.

Jalen Johnson and Jahcobi Neath are pretty similar players statistically, and don’t really bring too much. Johnson was a nobody for Tennessee during his career in Knoxville, then transferred to Wake and has been getting some consistent playing time.

Carter Whitt, like mentioned earlier, was in high school just two months ago, but was eligible to play right away in college and he looks like it at times. He’s slight, since he hasn’t had the time to be in a college weight training program. Whitt was a really sought after player and chose to stay close to home at Wake Forest over the likes of Michigan and Nebraska, a really big pick-up for Coach Forbes. He’s the future of this program, he just has to get used to the speed and physicality of college basketball. I think a team like Florida State is going to give him some real issues.

Team stats PPG/RPG (ORBs/DRBs)/APG/SPG/BPG/ToPG/FPG          FG%/3PT%/FT%

Wake Forest Produces: 69.2/34.3 (9.3/25.0)/11.9/7.3/2.2/14.1/16.7          42.9/35.1/73.5

Wake Forest Allows: 68.4/32.8 (7.9/24.9)/13.2/8.1/4.3/13.2/15.4          45.0/34.6/69.6

Player Stats

#11 Ian Dubose 13.0/4.7/4.0/2.0/0.3/0.7/1.7                       44.8/45.5/66.7

#4 Daivien Williamson 12.6/2.6/3.0/1.5/0.1/2.4/1.4          45.9/35.2/73.5

#1 Isaiah Mucius 10.7/5.6/0.5/0.4/0.4/1.9/2.1                    44.2/34.0/73.0

#33 Ody Oguama 9.6/6.0/0.7/0.7/0.3/1.3/2.7                     51.9/NA/68.9

#25 Ismael Massoud 9.2/3.7/0.3/0.5/0.1/1.4/1.8                36.0/37.5/71.0

#20 Jonah Antonio 6.4/2.0/1.1/1.0/0.2/0.9/1.3                  39.7/37.1/85.7

#2 Jalen Johnson 5.9/2.7/0.8/0.5/0.6/0.6/1.6                    40.0/34.0/69.2

#0 Jahcobi Neath 4.5/2.1/1.9/0.6/0.1/2.1/1.7                       37.9/26.3/93.3

#35 Carter Whitt 4.6/2.4/2.1/0.6/0.0/3.3/1.4                      37.7/37.5/83.3

#17 Florida State Seminoles (10-3, 6-2) Breakdown

Florida State missed some massive chances with the three games lost due to COVID. Two of them were potential Q1 games that could’ve been nice resume builders, instead there looks to be only 2-3 more Q1 chances the rest of the season, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and @ UNC. Games at Pitt and Virginia Tech, which were definitely winnable, now become forgotten due to the COVID pause. They’re going to have to play with some focus if they want a good seed in March. FSU is just 2-2 in Q1 games, and just 7 Q1 games potentially at season’s end isn’t a ton for the NCAA committee to base off of.

The good thing is, FSU should be healthy. Any bumps and bruises should be fully healed for this final stretch, and they seem to be focused. Star MJ Walker has temporarily disabled all social medias, and a couple of other guys have slowed down their social media usage as well. If FSU can win out from here, they’ll be in a nice place come March.

Getting Anthony Polite back is a big addition, his on-ball defense and his reliability from 3 is something sorely missed. Because Florida State has so many guys that can contribute, it makes it tough for opposing teams to get detailed scouting reports and can leave temporary gaps in closing out on a shooter. Polite is the most consistent shooter on a team full of shooters, and is a blistering 53.3% from 3, and is one of four players on the roster shooting greater than 44% from 3 (absurd).

The biggest key against Wake is seeing how FSU will play against a team that shoots almost 50% of their shots from behind the arc. Do they let them drive and avoid the kick-out passes, do they stick to their game plan and shrink gaps to try and force turnovers… it’s going to be really interesting to watch and I’m sure FSU will want to use as much of their depth as possible. Virginia is a huge test on Monday and they’ll want as much rest and momentum as possible heading into that game.

Injury Report

Anthony Polite should be fully healed from his shoulder injury and ready to go in this game. He was planning on coming back for the Pitt game before that one was delayed.

The major question is who was the player with COVID and is he fully recovered and ready to play. If there’s someone unexpected that doesn’t play, this would be the reason.

Wake just got Ian Dubose back last game against Boston College and is very happy about it, he’s one of their most talented scorers.

Tariq Ingraham is out for the season due to COVID-19 and his recovery, another talented scorer that the team misses.

Projected Starters

Florida State

G: RayQuan Evans

G: MJ Walker

G: Anthony Polite

F: RaiQuan Gray

C: Balsa Koprivica

Wake Forest

G: Carter Whitt

G: Davien Williamson

G: Jalen Johnson

F: Isaiah Mucius

F: Ody Oguama

Keys to the Game

Don’t Allow Wake to Gain Confidence

The Demon Deacons actually do a great job of hanging around in most games, but just fall apart in the middle of the second half. They’ve still been able to hang in there against Virginia and Virginia Tech until the very end. FSU just needs to come out and immediately squash any hope WF has, get out to an early run and set the tone. This is a great tune-up for the Virginia game on Monday, but shouldn’t be treated as such.

Limit WF’s Open 3s

Wake Forest has some really talented shooters. Ian Dubose, Carter Whitt, Ismael Massoud, and Jonah Antonio are all above 37% from 3, and Daivien Williamson is not far behind with 35%. This team is 26th nationally in 3PTa% at 45.3% (a percentage of how many of their shots come from 3). If you limit their open looks, they aren’t talented enough inside the arc yet to take advantage against a team as long and athletic as Florida State.

Pick up the Pace

Wake wants to slow the game down and work to get open 3s, then try and fight for an offensive rebound. If you speed this team up, force them into turnovers, and speed up their attack, they’re going to make mistakes. The one thing you can’t allow in speeding them up is the open corner 3s in the press break. They have some talented shooters that can’t be allowed to be left open, like stated above, and they’re going to take those transition 3s if given the opportunity.

Game Prediction

Florida State sits as a 13-point favorite with an over/under of 143.

If this is anything like FSU’s first game back after the last COVID pause, this could be a 35-40 point win, but let’s be realistic. Wake’s worst loss on the season was a 21-point loss to Notre Dame last week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a similar margin of victory in this game. I will take the ‘Noles 79-61.

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