Louisville Cardinals (12-15, 6-11) AT Wake Forest Demon Deacons (21-8, 11-7)
Game Time: 7:05 p.m.
Location: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Television: ACC Network
Announcers: Jay Alter (play-by-play) and Malcolm Huckaby (analyst)
Favorite: Wake Forest by 8
Officials: Jamie Luckie, Jerry Heater, Clarence Armstrong
Series: Louisville leads, 9-2
Last Meeting: Louisville won, 73-69, on Dec. 29, 2021 in Louisville
Possible Starting Lineups:
About Wake Forest:
As has been the case more times than not in recent weeks and as will continue to be the case moving forward, Louisville will face an ACC opponent squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble who can ill-afford a bad loss to a lightly-regarded Cardinal team.
Picked to finish 13th in the ACC at the start of the season, Steve Forbes’ Wake Forest Demon Deacons enters Saturday night with 21 wins already and is a 10-seed in the latest bracket projection from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. U of L will receive the full attention of a Wake team that has lost three of its last four, including a bad 80-69 setback at Clemson in their last time out Wednesday night.
The good news for Wake Forest is that their final two games are at home, where they are 14-2 on the season. Their only two losses in Winsston-Salem have come at the hands of Duke and Miami.
A win over Louisville on Saturday night followed by a triumph over NC State on Wednesday would allow Wake Forest to tie its program single season record for ACC wins, as the Deacs currently have 11 conference victories and the program record is 13 (2004-05, 2002-03). Both Wake and Iowa State (19-9) are on pace to set an NCAA Division-I record for the most-improved team from one season to the next. The current record is 17 ½ games by Towson (2012, 1-31; 2013; 18- 13). The Deacs have won 15 more games from last season (6-16), while the Cyclones have won 17 more contests than a season ago (2-22).
Wake continues to be led by potential ACC Player of the Year Alondes Williams. The transfer guard from Oklahoma is currently the conference’s leader in both scoring (19.7 ppg) and assists (5.1 apg).
In an 82-79 win over Charlotte back in December, Williams became the first Demon Deacon over the past 25 seasons to record at least 30 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in a game when he hung 34, 8 and 7 on the 49ers. Against USC Upstate on Dec. 11, he became the first Wake player since Tim Duncan in 1996 to post a triple-double. As Louisville fans saw first hand a couple of months ago, Williams might be the best passer in all of college basketball.
Alondes Williams went from playing a minor role at Oklahoma to leading the ACC in assists, and ranking 2nd in scoring. Quite a transformation he's made as a senior; playing efficient, productive ball for Wake Forest, while making some really high-level passes. Someone to monitor. pic.twitter.com/R5pNIPxwbN— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) January 4, 2022
Another transfer, former Indiana State standout Jake Laravia, is currently posting averages of 4.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.7 apg and 1.7 spg. The only other ACC players over the last 30 years to post that stat line or better are Grant Hill and Bobby Sura. Laravia scored 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists in the first meeting against the Cards.
Daivien Williamson, a 6’1 senior guard who followed Forbes from East Tennessee State two seasons ago, has been a rock solid presence in the Demon Deacon backcourt. He’s averaging 11.9 ppg and has made at least one three-pointer in 26 of Wake Forest’s 29 games this season. Defensively, Williamson remains a bit of a gambler. Louisville’s guards must be wary of his stabs at the ball, and must be aggressive at times when he reaches and misses.
Isaiah Mucius was the team’s leading scorer for much of last season, but has been more of a supporting role player so far this season, which better suits the 6’8 senior. Mucius can score from just about any spot on the floor, and had been making a concerted effort to be more of a post presence before the arrival of 6’10 senior transfer Khadim Sy, who is a far more natural five.
Mucius missed Wednesday’s game against Clemson because of an illness, and Sy left after playing just five minutes because of an ankle injury. There has been no update on either’s status for Saturday night’s game.
Wake Forest currently ranks in the ACC’s top five in a number of statistical categories:
2nd in field goal percentage (.482); 2nd in field goal % defense (.411); 2nd in scoring margin (+8.76); 2nd in assists (15.00/game); 2nd in scoring offense (78.14/game); 4th in rebounding offense (36.936); 3rd in 3-pt field goal % defense (.321); 4th in 3-pt field goals made per game (247 total, 8.52/game); 4th in rebounding margin (+3.10).
—Louisville is 3-1 all-time against Wake Forest in games played in Winston-Salem. The Cards’ lone loss to Wake since joining the ACC in 2014-15 came on the road on March 1, 2017.
—Wake Forest is currently fifth in the ACC standings. The Demon Deacons haven’t been a top five seed in the ACC tournament since 2010.
—Louisville’s 85-76 victory over Wake Forest on Jan. 7, 2015 in WinstonSalem, N.C. was the Cardinals’ first-ever ACC game.
—Louisville has an all-time 18-7 record in games played on Feb. 26, winning its last seven games played on that date.
—Former Louisville head coach Chris Mack was an assistant coach for three seasons at Wake Forest (2001-04) under the late head coach Skip Prosser when the Demon Deacons posted a 67-29 record.
—Mike Pegues is 6-7 as Louisville’s interim head coach this season. He is 1-6 since U of L’s parting of ways with former head coach Chris Mack on Jan. 26.
—Wake Forest defeated Louisville by a single point in the Sweet 16 round of the 1996 NCAA tournament, but most basketball historians actually consider the Cardinals the victors of that game since Tim Duncan both fouled out and walked in the game’s most crucial moments, and neither violation was called.
—In ACC play, Wake Forest is second in the league in field goal percentage and in field goal percentage defense. The Deacs are shooting at a 48.2 percent clip while limiting ACC opponents to just 41.1 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from three, which is good for third in the league.
—Wake Forest’s Alondes Williams leads the ACC in scoring (19.66 ppg, 27th in the country) and assists (5.07 apg, 35th in the country). He is the only player in a power conference to be averaging 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. He has scored in double figures in 28 games this season, reaching 30 three times and 20-plus 14 times.
—Louisville has used 14 different starting lineups in 27 games so far this season.
—This is the first time a Louisville team has dropped at least 14 of its first 26 games since the Cardinals started 10-17 in Denny Crum’s final season of 2000-01.
—Louisville is 216-13 over the last 20 seasons and 13-1 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more. That lone defeat came in this year’s 90-83 overtime loss to North Carolina.
—Louisville is 166-7 over the past 20 seasons when shooting 50 percent or better from the field and 13-0 over the last three.
—Louisville is 14-0 over the past 10 seasons when limiting opponents to no more than one three-point field goal.
—Since 2004, Louisville is 130-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.
—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Louisville has won 156 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Wake Forest 76, Louisville 65