Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bonus ACC Coverage

To start - tempo-free stats were updated Monday night (once again, still not including Air Force)...

Finals week is here in full force around the country, as there have now been two straight blah days of basketball, with the top teams either taking time off or playing ultimate cupcakes. Tonight at least brings an ACC game of interest, as Wake Forest travels to DePaul to take on the Blue Demons. Wake got off to a cupcake filled 5-0 start, but has dropped their last two, by a whole lot against Air Force, and by 1 at home to Georgia. DePaul has been a model of inconsistency. They got hammered by Bradley in their first game and then scored only 39 in a loss to Northwestern, followed that with a 1-2 trip in Maui (beating only Chaminade), and then the next thing you know they're beating Kansas 64-57.

Wake has a very young team (over half its minutes go to freshmen), with only Kyle Visser having more than 1 year of real experience (Drum is also a senior, but my best recollection is that he didn't play at all until last season). So far this year, Visser has hitched up his shorts and carried the team on his back the way Eric Williams never quite could. Visser's shooting 71% from the floor, and has made more field goals (52) than any teammate except Harvey Hale (55) or Ishmael Smith (54) has taken. Visser's also cleaning up on the glass, getting 14% of all offensive rebounds and 20% of all defensive boards. Ishmael Smith has become the point guard Wake was missing last year (which leaves Harvey Hale and Shamaine Dukes stuck searching for roles). He has a little bit of a turnover problem (nearly 4/game), but is responsible for assists on fully half (well, 48.4%) of all Deacon field goals while he's on the court. Even with his high turnovers, his A/TO is over 2. Prosser's got to be wondering what could have been last year if he had Smith distributing to Gray, Williams, and Strickland. Wake's achilles heel this year has been defense (gee, starting to sound familiar for a Skip Prosser team), giving up 1.055 points per possession, worse than 250 other teams.

DePaul relies heavily on Sammy Mejia and Wilson Chandler, who combined take over half the team's shots while they're on the floor. Mejia has struggled so far, posting a .97 ppws and a .467 efg% while chucking up 106 shots. The 6'8" Chandler has been by far their best player - he handles an equal bulk of the scoring as Mejia, while also pulling in rebounds (20.8% of all defensive boards), blocking shots (6.2%), and not turning the ball over. Draelon Burns is also a heavy chucker, playing only 19 minutes a game, but taking 26% of the team's shots while he's on the floor.

Pomeroy's numbers have Depaul winning by 12, but I think Wake is a little underrated on account of getting completely housed by Air Force, and playing a less than stellar schedule to date. This is a winnable game for the Deacs (and one that would be nice for the ACC to pick up, after Miami laid a big fat egg against Mississippi St.), provided that somebody steps up to help Visser. He'll get his, but he can't win games by himself. Jamie Skeen has played nicely since being introduced to the starting lineup, and he'll need to continue that level of play. If Skeen, Hale, and Smith knock down some outside shots, Wake will prevail. Predicting the outcome of this with any degree of certainty is tough, given that Wake is one of the youngest teams in the NCAA (and so inherently unpredictable), and Depaul is just plain inconsistent. There's really no result that would surprise me.

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