by Sharon Thorsland
North Carolina’s brief return to the Top 25 didn’t last long as the Tar Heels dropped a heart breaker to Pitt last week, ending a four game win streak. Now the Heels focus their attention on another ACC opponent in Wake Forest. Tip-off is set for 9pm Wednesday night in Chapel Hill.
The Demon Deacons (10-4, 2-1) looked mediocre to start the season but have since turned things up a notch, beating two of the best teams in the league in Duke and Virginia Tech. Both of those teams were missing key players at the time,but Wake appears to be back on track to make a push for the NCAA tournament.
Wake is averaging 75 points a game, and is a physical team, particularly under the basket. 2022 ACC Player of the Year Alondes Williams is now in the NBA, but the Deacs have replaced him with Florida transfer Tyler Appleby. The senior leads the Deacs and is second in the ACC averaging 18.5 points per game and is shooting 45 percent from three. Guard Cameron Hildreth is averaging 12 points a contest and leads the Deacs in rebounding, while Damari Monsanto is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. Wake rotates freshman big Zach Keller at center with Matthew Marsh, senior Daivian Williamson is first off the bench.
The Deacs have struggled at times to stop the 3, allowing more than 20 combined 3-pointers in blowout losses to Clemson and Rutgers. The Tar Heels have not been shooting the ball well from deep, but Caleb Love can get hot from behind the arc. The Deacs will definitely have their hands full with Armando Bacot, who leads the ACC in both scoring and rebounding, and the Tar Heels are the league’s top offensive rebounding team. Defensive rebounding has been the problem for the Heels in their losses, though, and they’ll have to get that cleaned up if they want to get past this Wake team.