North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons Preview and Pick – Point Spread

North Carolina State Wolfpack (8-1 SU, 4-4-1 ATS) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-2 SU, 4-2 ATS), 7:45 p.m. EST, Sunday, December 20, 2009, Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, N.C. TV: FSN
by Ryno of

Point Spread: North Carolina State +8.5/Wake Forest -8.5
Over/Under: 142

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North Carolina State and Wake Forest both have survived their non-conference slates and now will try to get ACC conference play underway on the right foot.

NC State has only lost one game, a home loss to Northwestern. The Wolfpack has played well in its only road game, a win at Marquette, and won a neutral game over Auburn. NC State has also defeated a few decent mid-major teams in Akron, Austin Peay and New Orleans.

Wake Forest has only one quality win, a 77-75 road win at Gonzaga. The Demon Deacons also got a nice win over NC Wilimington, and lost to Purdue and William & Mary.

Wake is led by Al-Farouq Aminu and Ishmael Smith. Aminu, an athletic, versatile sophomore 6-foot-9 forward, is averaging 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Aminu can handle the ball, shoot and post up, and he can score anywhere from the 3-point line to above the rim. Smith, who is averaging 12.4 points and 5.1 assists per game, is a lightning quick point guard who can dribble through any defense and get to the rim. Freshman guard C.J. Harris has given the Demon Deacons a big boost with 12.4 points per game on 53.2 percent shooting from the field and 52 percent from beyond the arc. L.D. Williams and Ari Stewart can both put up some points, each averaging about nine points per game. The Demon Deacons have a lot of size with 7-footers Tony Woods and Chas McFarland and the 6-foot-9 Aminu serving as the small forward.

NC State’s best player this season has been Tracy Smith, a 6-foot-8 forward who is averaging 18 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Joining him down low is Dennis Horner, who is averaging 14 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Horner is tough to defend because he can step out and hit jumpers. He’s shooting a remarkable 56.2 percent from 3-point range. Javier Gonzalez, averaging just over 10 points per game, mans the backcourt for the Wolfpack along with Julius Mays and Scott Wood.

Other than Smith, the Wolfpack doesn’t do a very good job rebounding the ball. That’s not a good thing going against a very tall Wake Forest team. The Demon Deacons will have the size advantage at all three frontcourt positions by at least two inches at each. Woods and McFarland each have about three inches on Horner and Smith, and Aminu has two or three inches on whoever is guarding him (Wood or C.J. Williams). The Demon Deacons will try to pound the ball inside to all of their big men and score some easy baskets. If Horner or Smith gets in foul trouble, it will make it even more difficult for the Wolfpack. A key for NC State will be for Gonzalez to a good job defensively on Smith because the Wake point guard is very quick and will try to get into the lane. If he is successful doing so, Smith will be able to dish off to the big men or dribble at the opposing big men and throw up runners that the Wake big men will be able to offensive rebound. For NC State to win this game, the Wolfpack will have to shoot the ball very well and force a lot of turnovers. If neither of those occur, Wake will get more possessions because of the rebounding differential and will likely shoot a higher percentage by getting a lot of shot attempts near the basket.

Ryno’s Pick: NC State has played well away from home this season but this may be a little bit tougher for an inexperienced team like the Wolfpack playing in a tough environment at Wake in their season opener. Other than the loss to William & Mary, Wake has won every home game this season by double digits. The Wolfpack just doesn’t have anything going for it in this game – size, shooters, athletes, experience or location. Wake has an advantage in pretty much every facet of the game and its size will wear down NC State and cause a double-digit victory. Take Wake Forest -8.5.