Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey
-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.
The 76 Classic from Anaheim has hosted a number of interesting games over the week, and the final looks like it will not disappoint, as it features #13 Baylor (6-0) and #15 Wake Forest (5-0).
Baylor resisted a strong late charge from Arizona St and James Harden to make the final, which was their first top quality win, as they’ve played a relatively weak schedule so far. Wake Forest also has not had a serious test yet, but just survived a semifinal game against UTEP to advance.
Baylor has been an excellent offensive team, but defense has been Wake’s strength, so a good battle should ensue. It surprised me that that the Bears are among the nation’s best two-point shooters, but this is strongly affected by Quincy Acy’s 92.3% two-point shooting so far this season. The Bears shoot mostly from the outside, but when they do go inside, they have some good scoring options, allowing them to present a very strong multiple threat to most teams. They don’t go to the offensive glass much, and aren’t great free throw shooters, but give the ball up very little and get to the line quite often. Wake’s defense is strongest in the interior, which may allow Baylor to shoot over it with their skilled guards. They have done everything well, but nothing spectacularly to date, though they are able to get a lot of blocks.
When Wake has the ball, it will go inside, as they are one of the most heavily two-point dependent offenses in the nation. It’s important for the Deacons to shoot well inside, since when they have taken threes, they have not shot them well. Considering their offensive advantage inside, they don’t get many of their own misses, and they tend to struggle with turnovers somewhat, not unsurprising from a young team. Baylor’s defense looks good statistically, pretty even across most categories. This makes me a little suspicious of a weak opponents effect, especially since Arizona St. managed to torch the Bears’ D pretty badly in the semifinals. Still, their glaring weaknesses from last season, fouling and not forcing turnovers, are as of yet not evident this season.
Baylor have been led, so far, in the backcourt, with senior Curtis Jerrells taking the bulk of the work. He is a good ball mover and a very solid shooter, precisely what a coach would want from a point guard. He also is a steady hand with the ball, generally committing few turnovers, though he has had a couple of nightmare turnover games so far this season. The rest of the backcourt load is shared by prolific but not particularly effective shooter LaceDarius Dunn, along with a couple of other decent shooters in Henry Dugat and Tweety Carter. Inside, Quincy Acy has put up absurd numbers, averaging 10 points and 5 boards, along with nearly 3 fouls in less than 20 minutes per game. In addition, he is leading the nation in field goal percentage with the crazy number mentioned above.
Much of the talk about Wake Forest has been about freshman Al-Farouq Aminu, and while the young big man has been part of a great three man interior unit that have powered the Deacons’ offense, the leading scorer and most important player so far has been guard Jeff Teague. Teague was an average shooter last season, but in the early part of this season he has greatly increased both the size of his role and the effectiveness he has in that role. He’s shot 55% from the field, and one of the big keys is that he has been more selective from three, shooting a larger percentage of twos than last season, but making a lot more of the threes he does take. While I expect Teague will cool off, right now he’s leading the ACC in scoring, and needs to be closely marked. The three inside guys, Aminu, Chas McFarland and James Johnson are all shooting around 60% from the field, and averaging double-digit points with high single-digit rebounds. Baylor haven’t faced a team loaded with good big men, and it may cause some serious defensive problems when the Bears have three guards on the floor.
I’m really uncertain about a prediction for this game, but Baylor’s impressive offensive showing against Arizona St., combined with their strong veteran backcourt presence, makes me think that they can exploit the younger Wake team on the defensive end. While I don’t think Baylor will be too effective at stopping the Deacons from scoring, Wake has enough offensive weaknesses to give the Bears a very slight edge.
Winner: Baylor Margin: 2-6
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