North Carolina(15-6, 5-3) vs Wake Forest(10-11, 3-6), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
With this Tar Heel team, "easy" is the operative word there. On paper, this game against Wake Forest and the past two were the least daunting portion of the ACC schedule. UNC only played one game on the road and all three opponents were ranked below 100 in the RPI. Because of that, these three games have been very important in protecting UNC's RPI and a win against Wake Forest would put the Heels at 16-6 and 6-3 in the ACC. That is as good a position as the Heels could hope for at this juncture and sets the stage for the final half of the league schedule.
Getting past Wake Forest might prove difficult despite the Demon Deacons having all sorts of troubles playing on the road. At home Wake Forest has been outstanding with a win over NC State and handing Duke all they could handle. On the road, the Deacons have lost 5 ACC games by an average of 16.2 ppg which includes a one point loss to Virginia Tech. What's more, Wake has only one win on the road in ACC play since Jeff Bzdelik took over two years ago.
UNC might need every bit of Wake Forest's bad road mojo given the team is currently in the midst another rash of injuries and sickness. James Michael McAdoo is nursing a sore back and Desmond Hubert is recovering from flu-like symptoms. Both practiced for half the time yesterday and should play today. P.J. Hairston is doubtful since he also has been battling flu-like symptoms and is also recovering from a concussion. For a team that has its trouble offensively, having Hairston out and McAdoo struggling with a back injury puts the Tar Heels in a precarious position.
The cure(hopefully) is Reggie Bullock finding his jumpshot again. Bullock opened up ACC play shooting a torrid clip from beyond the arc but has since cooled off. Since blistering Maryland in the first half on January 19th, Bullock is 7-27(25%) from three over the past four games and 1-8 on Saturday against Virginia Tech. Undoubtedly, Bullock is drawing more defensive attention. He is also not adept at creating his own shot or driving with the basketball which makes him both easier to defend and dependent on a well-executed offense to get him good looks. With Hairston likely out, Leslie McDonald will step into the gap and hopefully with less rust that he had on Saturday. McDonald was outstanding on the defensive end helping to shut down Erick Green but on offense struggled to score. Without Hariston, McDonald needs to be better than 1-7 and 0-5 from three. Naturally, eyes will be on Marcus Paige to see if he can continue to build of a couple of solid outings.
Wake Forest brings a collection of young players and some of them have been very good at times. Devin Thomas will have an impact on the interior as he did versus both Duke and NC State. C.J. Harris and Travis McKie represent the most experienced players Wake has and both are good three point shooter putting the pressure on the Tar Heel defense to maintain the kind of defensive attention shown this past Saturday.
Wake is fairly mediocre on the offensive and defensive end. Being on the road probably exacerbates the Deacs' struggle in both areas. However, based on Saturday, UNC is not in a position to take a home game for granted. They certainly cannot be caught looking ahead to Miami this weekend. After all there is no point in looking forward to a game that rates as a probable loss at the expense of one you should win.
UNC 84 Wake 70