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Preview: UNC vs Wake Forest

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina vs Wake Forest, 12:00 PM, ACC Network

Behold the infamous "letdown" game.

There are actual reasons why the idea of a letdown game is not just a cliche. UNC is coming off an emotionally draining win over Duke. That is true of the players who expended physical and emotional energy in winning a huge rivalry game. Coming back 36 hours later to play another game likely means the Tar Heels will be a little flat and a Dean Dome crowd that was incredibly loud will me a tad muted. In addition to just the normal letdown, this is UNC's fourth game in eight days and the second time in that span the Heels have done two games in three days.

What that means is this game could be a tougher slog than it might be otherwise. It is also a game UNC cannot afford to lose. The win over Duke served as a bit of validation that UNC had finally shed the 1-4 start in ACC play. The general consensus is the Tar Heels have finally established an identity as a legitimate ranked team. Nothing could undo that faster than a loss to a Wake Forest team in a season death spiral. Not to mention, Wake Forest has been beyond awful in ACC road games during the Jeff Bzdelik era. In the past almost four seasons, Wake has won an ACC road game just twice. One was versus Boston College in 2012 and the other exactly one month ago at Virginia Tech. Even if UNC does not play well, there is zero reason to lose this game considering the current direction the Demon Deacons are trending.

When the Tar Heels lost to Wake Forest in early January, they did a great job on the offensive glass but didn't convert those rebounds into points. Both Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald were mired in slumps. UNC got solid outings from James Michael McAdoo, J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson however the lack of perimeter production was enough of a drain on UNC's offense to put the Heels on the wrong side of the result. Assuming there are not repeat performances of that nature from the starting backcourt, UNC should be able to handle Wake Forest, even if the Tar Heels might not play well in general. UNC's winning streak has been built on finding ways to overcome tough scenarios and a potential letdown game is just the latest.

UNC 78 Wake Forest 65