Today at 12:00 p.m. ET, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons will defend their home court against the No. 2-ranked Miami Hurricanes, and some believe the Deacs have a real shot at notching a signature upset in this game. Miami is stacked with veteran depth and has finally received their due as a Final Four caliber team and the top team in the ACC, but they are coming off of two ugly games. First, Miami had to notch a buzzer beater to push by the Clemson Tigers, and then they only defeated Virginia 54-50 in low-scoring games.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest suffered two close losses in their past two games against Georgia Tech and Boston College. The Demon Deacons have the second-worst SRS in the ACC, while Miami has the second-best SRS. Wake won’t get blown out of their home court, but I just don’t see a way they win this game. The Deacs will make life somewhat difficult for Miami, because they brought their A-games earlier this year in upsets to top in-state schools Duke and N.C. State. Heck, they even blew out Florida State by 25 points three games ago.
Below are four players the Wake Forest Demon Deacons will have to watch for on Miami.
1. Shane Larkin- One of the best point guards in the conference, Shane Larkin is averaging 13 points per game and 4.3 assists per game this season. A solid rebounder, Larkin is also grabbing four boards per contest and is one of the top perimeter defenders in the ACC with two steals per game. In fact, Larkin is most likely the best perimeter defender in the conference right now. He is also one of the most efficient scorers with a 58.9% true-shooting percentage and an average of 1.14 points per possession. The star of the team, Larkin leads Miami in win shares and is second in PER.
2. Kenny Kadji- Another efficient player and top scorer, Kadji was the man who knocked down the buzzer beater to top Clemson. He is second on the Hurricanes with four rebounds. Kadji also averages roughly 13 points per game, and he is the second-best rebounder in Coral Gables with great shot-blocking ability to boot.
3. Durand Scott- Durand Scott gives Miami an enviable backcourt duo, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Scott gets nearly two thefts per game as well, and he also fills up the stat sheet with solid rebounding and assist totals. The fact that Miami has two guards who are such great all-around players will present big problems for Wake Forest.
4. Julian Gamble- Probably my favorite player on the team, the sixth-year senior gives the Hurricanes a lot of heart and soul. He’s also a damn good basketball player with a team-leading 21.7 PER and an average of just over five rebounds coming off of the bench (20.4 minutes per game). Gamble is one of the best five defensive players in the conference with an average of two blocks per game, and his 10.4% block percentage is easily the highest in the ACC thus far. Gamble has the third-most win shares on Miami, despite playing at least 200 minutes less than the two guys above him and the two guys below him.
Wake Forest will have to watch more than just those four guys on Miami, because this team has six players with at least two win shares and another solid bench player in Rion Brown. The Hurricanes won’t be getting upset by the Demon Deacons, but I think we’ll see Wake Forest keep things close at home 70-64.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.