Date/Time: January 29, 4:00
TV: ACC Network, ESPN3
History against the Deacons: 58-66
Last matchup: Wake 69, UVA 57; 1/23/10; Winston-Salem
Last game: Md. 66, UVA 42 (1/27); Duke 83, Wake 59 (1/22)
Opposing blogs: Blogger So Dear
National: UVA #124; Wake #254
Offense: UVA #96; Wake #234
Defense: UVA #158; Wake #262
OK, so, last night was a disaster. This is less surprising than a win would have been given how badly we matchup against Maryland. Wake Forest is one of the worst teams in the country, let alone the conference. They are sandwiched in the KenPom rankings by Coppin State and Army. This is not an easy situation for UVA, but they'll have to make the best of it because a loss on Saturday would step it up to a full-blown catastrophe. Crisis mode would be offically enabled and the media will begin employing crisis-mode words like "reeling" and "struggling." This can be averted with a win, and all eyes could then turn toward the possibility of attaining and even surpassing, however briefly, .500 in the conference.
HOW WE CAN WIN
- Forget and focus. No dwelling on the Maryland game. It'd be easy to look past Wake since the game is so close - less than 24 hours away. Players should focus on their own job and their own fundamentals, because there's too little time to consider Wake's tendencies, and they've had a week to prepare so they've probably got their own wrinkles in store anyway.
- Dominate their bench. Wake's bench is essentially useless outside of J.T. Terrell. (Our own team probably looks similar, of course, but we're not the ones who are winless in the conference.) Any time someone outside the starting lineup steps on the court, it's time to turn up the heat on them.
- Shut down Travis McKie. By shutting down Jordan Williams, Bennett's proving that he can dial up a defensive game plan to stop just about anyone. Of course, Williams had a supporting cast. Bennett was betting that they couldn't come through, but they did. McKie is Wake's only consistent performer and Wake's supporting cast is a lot less likely to make UVA pay for focusing on one player.
HOW WE CAN LOSE
- Lingering effects. I seriously worry about this. Going on the road for a game just 43 hours from the end of the last one against a rotten team we have no business losing to is so typical of UVA's worst losses.
- Ignore Gary Clark. Even with the emphasis on McKie, Clark is one guy capable of sticking a dagger in, and he shouldn't be left alone. 35-of-54 on three-point shooting; an astounding 65%. That is insane, and you know how we are about three-pointers.
HOW THE GAME WILL GO
We all think Tony Bennett is a new breed of basketball coach that we haven't seen at UVA in a long time. Leitao and Gillen would be at risk of losing control, while Bennett is a much better teacher. Or so the theory goes. I subscribe to it, and so do you. Here's a chance to prove it. In a vacuum, we should not lose this game. Coming off an ugly loss to a hated rival at home, and then having to get on the bus and get fired up to play a rotten team is a real motivation challenge for a coach. And Wake has surely circled this game as their best chance all year to steal a win.
If the game is lost it will be because of defensive breakdowns. Wake can't stop a YMCA club from scoring, but, a 39-point shit show against Georgia Tech notwithstanding, they can score a bit themselves if you turn it off on defense. Defense is where Bennett's system demands 100% concentration at all times, so this is where the danger lies.
I don't think we're in for this, though. Seattle is long past us, and the shooting then was even worse than the shooting last night, which wasn't as bad as it gets but it sure looked like it. Nobody in the ACC has beaten Wake by less than 19. That might change on Saturday, with the game closer than we'd like, but I think Bennett will have his guys ready. And unless it's a real skin-of-our-teeth kind of win I think UVA fans will call it progress to turn what could easily have been a loss under previous regimes into a comfortable win.