COACH: Dino Gaudio, three years at Wake Forest, two years in NCAA Tournament
HOW THEY GOT IN: At-large bid MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: Wake Forest stumbled coming down the stretch, losing five of its last six games including a 21-point blowout loss in the ACC Tournament to Miami. But then Texas wasn’t exactly bowling over people, losing three of its last five, including a 19-point loss to Baylor in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tourney. Wake forward Al-Farouq Aminu needs to come out of his funk. He was scoreless in a loss at Florida State in the next-to-last game of the season and scored only 11 points in the loss to Miami. He is only 11-of-34 from the field over his last four games. Point guard Ish Smith, however, has scored in double figures for Wake in his last seven games while handing out 42 assists. Meanwhile, the Longhorns are without point Dogus Balbay, out with a knee injury.
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GO-TO GUYS: Sophomore F Al-Farouq Aminu averaged a double-double (15.9 points, 10.8 rebounds) for the regular season, the only player in the league to do so. Those numbers also carried through in the 16 ACC games (14.8 points, 10.3 rebounds). Senior G Ish Smith returned to his starting role after assuming a role off the bench last year because of injuries and averaged 6.0 assists a game in the regular season while scoring at a 13.3-points-a-game clip, more than five over his career average. Freshman G C.J. Harris averaged 10 points in the regular season and was the Deacons’ best free-throw shooter (84.2 percent).
THEY’LL KEEP WINNING IF: The Deacons can work to get a good shot selection. They shot the ball at a 47-percent clip in their 19 regular-season victories but slumped to just 37 percent in their nine losses. They also had a big advantage in rebounds in their victories, but that doesn’t always hold up as a good indicator, as they outrebounded N.C. State by 19 but still lost. The Deacons do have some incentive after last season’s embarrassing loss to Cleveland State in their NCAA opener when they were a No. 4 seed.
STRENGTHS: The Deacons have steady leadership in the backcourt in Smith and a shutdown defender in G L.D. Williams. Aminu is the league’s leading rebounder, and Harris was picked for the ACC’s All-Rookie team. The Deacs held opponents to just 37.9-percent shooting, which trailed national leader Florida State in the category in the conference and ranked fourth in the country. Wake was seventh nationally and second in the conference in limiting opponents to just a 28.3-percent success rate in 3-point shooting.
WEAKNESSES: Wake struggled with its shooting in the stretch run of the regular season and all season from behind the 3-point arc, shooting only 31.7 percent in all games and even worse (30.0 percent) in its 16 conference games. Only Virginia Tech was less effective from long range. The Deacons also have had problems handling the basketball, making at least a turnover per game more than their opponents, with Aminu the major culprit (a team-high 91 turnovers in the regular season). The Deacons stumbled badly at the end of the regular season, losing four in a row until winning the season finale at home against Clemson.