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College Basketball Weekend Preview by Max
Conference play has begun and teams are establishing themselves as pretenders or contenders. Teams that played soft non-conference schedules, such as Pittsburgh or Kansas State, are suddenly finding conference play challenging. Because of that, these teams have suffered some early losses and have fallen from the polls. Other teams that have challenged themselves during the non-conference season have found those obstacles rewarding. The way the RPI is calculated, it is better to have a quality loss than numerous victories over mid-majors or even teams that someone cannot even pronounce. The following will look ahead to the upcoming weekend slate of games, including the best game of the season thus far, which tips Saturday afternoon.
The preseason hype has come to fruition, as atop the standings of the ACC are North Carolina and Wake Forest. Both teams have one loss during the non-conference portion of the season and have dominated teams once the ACC opened up. Wake Forest is coming off of an impressive win over Maryland in which they led by 19 points at halftime and cruised to a 15-point victory. North Carolina did them one better on Wednesday, when they pounded Georgia Tech (without BJ Elder) by 22 points. Momentum should not be a problem for either side as both teams come in brimming with confidence.
The key for Wake Forest winning this game comes down to the play of their guards. This is the one area where they have a decided advantage of the Tar Heels. Chris Paul gets all the hype, but SG Justin Grey would be the man on any other team in the country. Both of these players are averaging around 15 points per game and they are the best one-two punch in the country at the guard position. They go along nicely with C Eric Williams, who gives the Demon Deacons what they need from the inside; scoring and rebounding.
While the Deacons have the advantage at the guard position, the Heels have a distinct advantage at the forward position. Rashad McCants is the best offensive player in the country and is a threat to score from anywhere on the court. He goes along nicely with Jackie Manuel, who is a shutdown defender and C Sean May. May is averaging over 15.5 per game and he has the ability to hit open teammates when teams decide to double down on him. Finally, despite a hand injury, PG Raymond Felton continues to get the job done both shooting and passing the basketball.
Unfortunately, due to poor scheduling by ABC, only a third of the country will get to watch this game. The difference in this game will come down to which role players and reserves step-up and make plays. I expect the stars on both teams to cancel each other out, so look for an unsung hero to rise to the occasion and win the game for his respective team. Who will that hero be? Check back Saturday for Doc's Sports College Basketball picks.
If you enjoyed this Wake Forest and North Carolina preview, check back twice a week for more college hoops articles by Max.
One E-mail A Week Is All You Need! Our weekly newsletter is loaded with exclusive free picks,insight and advice from our expert handicappers