Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (12-4 SU, 6-7 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (12-6 SU, 5-10 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, January 20, 2009, Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Wake Forest +6/North Carolina -6
Over/Under: 157.5

It is now clear that this is not the same North Carolina team that won the National Championship this season. Most people realized that the roster was much younger this season, but still many people expected the Tar Heels to be a top 10 team. Instead, they are in danger of falling out of the top 25 and perhaps already should be. After losing three of their last four games, the Tar Heels will try to get back to their winning ways when they host the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Wednesday.

The Tar Heels had been doing just fine until right after the New Year when they lost in overtime at the College of Charleston, 82-79. After that, ACC play started and they won their first game over Virginia Tech at home, 78-64. But then, they traveled to Clemson and got destroyed right from the get-go, 83-64.

In their last game, the Tar Heels lost at home to Georgia Tech, 73-71. They were down by 20 points, 29-9, in the first half, and by 14 points, 42-28, at the half, before going on a huge run to make it a game in the second half. It was Will Graves who broke out during the big run to get them back into the game, scoring a team-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers. Deon Thompson and Ed Davis each scored 12 points for the Heels. Graves, Thompson, Davis and Larry Drew II, who also had nine assists, each grabbed at least seven rebounds in the game. The Heels shot just 38 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers, which has been their problem all season long.

Wake Forest is a team that is capable of being in the upper-echelon of the ACC this season or just an average team, but it’s yet to be seen. Prior to their last game, the Demon Deacons went through a four-game stretch in which every single game went down to the wire. They won in overtime at home over Richmond, 74-68, won at home in double overtime over Xavier, 96-92, lost on the road at Miami, 67-66, and won at home in overtime over Maryland, 85-83.

But their last game certainly did not go to overtime or down to the wire at all, as the Demon Deacons lost at Duke, 90-70. Their frontcourt did a solid job, as Al-Farouq Aminu had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Chas McFarland had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Ari Stewart had 14 points. But Ishmael Smith, L.D. Williams and C.J. Harris combined for just 12 points on 5-for-24 shooting. They had more turnovers (8) than field goals (5). In all, the Demon Deacons had 17 turnovers and only eight assists. They shot 39 percent from the field and were out-rebounded by eight.

Wake Forest is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games as an underdog, 2-5 ATS in its last seven games following an ATS loss, and 2-5 ATS in its last seven games overall. North Carolina is 1-4 ATS in its last five games as a favorite, 1-5 ATS in its last six games overall, and 7-20 ATS in its last 27 ACC games. Wake Forest is 1-4 ATS in its last five games against North Carolina but 5-2 ATS in its last seven games against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five games between these teams. The over is 5-1 in the last six games between these teams and 4-0 in the last four games between the Demon Deacons and Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Ryno’s Pick: These two teams are two of the bigger teams in college basketball. Wake Forest has a frontcourt of 6-foot-9 Aminu, 7-foot McFarland, 6-foot-7 Stewart, 6-foot-11 David Weaver and 6-foot-11 Tony Woods. North Carolina has 6-foot-10 John Henson, 6-foot-9 Thompson, 6-foot-10 Davis, 6-foot-10 David Wear and 6-foot-10 Travis Wear. It’s going to be a physical battle in the paint, and the tougher team will probably be the team that wins. For Wake to win this game, though, Smith has to play much better than he did against Duke. He has to take control of the game and create easy shots for himself and his teammates. Both of these teams are prone to lots of turnovers, so it will be important for both teams to control the ball and limit their turnovers. With North Carolina at home and desperate for a win, the Tar Heels should come out with a purpose and make a statement. Take North Carolina -6.