With only a handful of games left for everyone as we near the end of the season, we have officially hit crunch time as teams on the bubble look to make one last push to cement their spot in the tournament. One of those teams is Wake Forest, 17-10 and coming off a crucial loss to the Miami Hurricanes. They hit the road to battle it out against North Carolina State who is coming off a big emotional win against their rival UNC, looking to improve their own seeding as well. Who comes out the winner in this ACC matchup?
Wake Forest Vs. North Carolina State Prediction & Pick
The Pick: NCST -5.5
With that said, I will back the Wolfpack at no higher than -6 as they look to continue their momentum that they have been building for a late season push. I initially had a piece on the under but cashed out for a loss of small pennies as Wake Forest is too much of a wildcard towards the total. The blueprint has been laid out to beat them, focusing a majority of defensive attention on the perimeter to force Appleby into havoc situations. Without Appleby, this WF offense crumbles.
North Carolina State will be poised to do just that as their perimeter defense has been above average in the second half of the season backed behind elite guard play. That was on full display in their most recent outing, applying pressure to UNC and taking advantage of their weak transitional defense for easy fast break scoring opportunities. We may witness more of the same in this contest with NCST pressuring Appleby and turning that defense into offense.
When Appleby is unable to get it going, scoring lulls are plentiful for the Demon Deacons as this shut down the flow of the offense. Turnovers have been an issue in his last two outings, coughing the ball up four times against Georgia Tech and an astonishing 12 times against the Miami Hurricanes. Wake Forest can simply not afford to repeat that same low level of carelessness as their defense is incapable of slowing NCST down to make up for the lost possessions.
Wake Forest Vs. North Carolina State Odds
Oddsmakers lean towards the Wolfpack on their home court, opening NCST as a -5.5 favorite. Bettors have also sided with them, taking them up to the key number of -6 in some shops. This comes as no surprise as recency bias may heavily lean towards their favor when comparing each other’s latest results. NCST looked like a team poised for a run behind their elite guard play, while Wake Forest showed serious flaws when their star player Tyree Appleby was unable to get it going.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a blistering pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 156.5. Bettors have initially leaned toward the under by taking it down to 156, but it has since bounced back and forth between that and the original opening number. The under steam is somewhat surprising as both units base a brunt of their success on the offensive end, but Wake Forest may struggle to find consistent scoring success after the blueprint on how to beat them has been laid out.
Wake Forest Vs. North Carolina State Key Matchups
Will NCST be able to take advantage of the Demon Deacons weak perimeter defense?
North Carolina State three-point shooting vs Wake Forest perimeter defense
One of the more head scratching shooting performances that I have ever witnessed was in North Carolina’s State last game out against the Tar Heels. I can’t recall a time I have seen so many air balls on their own home court. Granted some were tipped by the defender, but still it was an astonishing amount.
Still, this is an efficient shooting team with a trio of guards all capable of taking over at a moments notice. They combine for an average of 47.5 points per game, accounting for over 60% of their team total scoring.
Wake FOrest is a drastic step down in perimeter defense in comparison to the Tar Heels, now giving up even more wide open looks for the Wolfpack to exploit. Each guard shoots at a near 34% or higher from deep, each capable of finding the gap in the Wake Forest defense to get off a clean look.
Back the Wolfpack at no higher than -6 as they should garner high quality looks from multiple levels on offense while also getting the added benefit of fast break points to pad the lead. In a must win situation for both teams, I’ll side with NCST as they are more efficient on both ends of the court.