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Louisville vs. Wake Forest preview: Cardinals shoot for sixth straight ACC win

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A victory in Winston-Salem would give U of L its best ACC start ever.

No. 15 Louisville Cardinals (15-5, 6-1) At Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-11, 1-6)

Game Time: 8:06 p.m.

Location: LJVM Coliseum: Winston-Salem, N.C.

Television: Raycom/WAVE-3 in Louisville

Announcers: Evan Lepler (play-by-play) and Cory Alexander (analyst)

Officials: Jamie Luckie, Lee Cassell, Jerry Heater

Favorite: Louisville by 10

Series: Louisville leads, 5-2

Last Meeting: Louisville won 96-77 on Jan. 27, 2018 in Louisville

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Wake Forest:

As we near the end of the first full month of conference play, it’s fairly apparent to anyone who follows the ACC that Wake Forest is the weakest team in the league. The Demon Deacons are one of two teams in the conference with an overall record below .500, and their lone conference win came over a Markell Johnson-less NC State 15 days ago.

Thanks to the surprising departures of his top three scorers from last season, Danny Manning knew he would be up against it in 2018-19. Leading scorer Bryant Crawford and talented 7-foot big man Doral Moore both opted to enter the NBA Draft, while second leading-scorer Keyshawn Woods transferred to Ohio State. Had all three chosen to stick it out in Winston-Salen, Wake would likely be in the mic for an NCAA tournament bid. Since they didn’t, the Deacons are dealing with a resume that includes losses to Houston Baptist, Gardner-Webb and Richmond.

Wake Forest is led by junior guard Brandon Childress, the son of former Demon Deacon star Randolph Childress. Childress enters Wednesday night averaging team-bests in points (16.1 ppg) and assists (4.3 apg). Everything the Deacs do offensively runs through him.

Second-leading scorer Jaylen Hoard (14.3 ppg) is also the team’s leader in rebounding (8.1 rpg). The 6’8 native of Carnon, France has been one of the most productive freshmen in the ACC this season. Sophomore guard Chaundee Brown is averaging double figures at 10.5 ppg, but has been held to single digits in scoring in each of Wake’s last four games.

Outside of having a talented guard in Childress and a promising freshman in Hoard, there’s not much for Wake Forest to boast about. The one thing the Deacs have been good at this year is getting to the free-throw line with regularity and then capitalizing on those chances. Wake ranks 13th in Division-I in free-throw attempts per field goal attempts, and is shooting 72.5 percent at the line as a team.

Outside of the free-throw stuff ... the profile is rough. Wake Forest is dead last in the ACC in three-point percentage, next to last in two-point percentage, dead last in two-point defense, and third to last in turnover percentage.

For Wake to have a shot at knocking off a second top 20 team this month, the Deacons will need many of the same things that happened against NC State to happen against Louisville: Dominate the scoring at the free-throw line, score cheap buckets off turnovers, and hold U of L to an abnormally low shooting percentage from beyond the arc.

STRENGTHS: Getting to the free-throw line, shooting free-throws, offensive rebounding, being tall, having Brandon Childress and Jaylen Hoard.

WEAKNESSES: Three-point shooting, halfcourt defense, transition defense, turnovers, forcing turnovers, quality depth.

Notable:

—Louisville’s current five-game win streak is its longest conference winning streak since joining the ACC in 2014-15. It’s also the longest active conference winning streak in the league.

—A win over Wake Forest would give Louisville its best conference start (7-1) since joining the ACC.

—Louisville assistant Dino Gaudio was Wake Forest’s head coach for three seasons from 2007-2010. He guided the Demon Deacons to a 61-31 overall record and a pair of NCAA tournament appearances.

—Chris Mack was an assistant coach for three seasons at Wake Forest (2001-04) under the late Skip Prosser. The Deacs were 67-29 during Mack’s time on the Wake staff. This will be Mack’s first game against Wake Forest as a head coach.

—Louisville is 1-1 in games against Wake Forest at the LJVM Coliseum. The Cards have been ranked in the top 25 for all three of their visits to Winston-Salem.

—Louisville is 3-2 in true road games so far this season, including 2-1 in the ACC.

—Jordan Nwora is the second-most improved scorer in the nation with his 18.2 ppg scoring average up 12.5 ppg from his 5.7 average last year.

—Wake freshman Jaylen Hoard is one of two players in the ACC this season with a pair of 20-and-15 games. Duke’s R.J. Barrett is the other.

—Wake Forest is 1-4 against ranked opponents so far this season.

—Wake Forest, which knocked off No. 17 NC State on Jan. 15, hasn’t defeated two ranked opponents in the same month since January, 2009.

—Louisville is one of only five schools to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at least once during each of the past 17 seasons, excluding preseason polls (others: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, and North Carolina).

—Wake Forest ranks 13th nationally in getting to the free throw line, with a FTA/FGA ratio of 42.9 percent (national average is 33.6 percent). 24.8 percent of Wake’s points this season have come from the line, the fourth highest percentage nationally.

—Louisville is 14-0 this season when shooting a better percentage from the field than its opponent.

—Louisville has won 148 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 16 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 78, Wake Forest 66