Points of Emphasis: Louisville vs. Wake Forest

Here are the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Louisville's men's basketball's matchup with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons
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(Photo of Torry Johnson, Lamarr 'Fresh' Kimble: Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - After having a couple extra days off following the postponement of their weekend game against Georgia Tech, the Louisville men's basketball program is back in action. Next up for the Cardinals, they will travel to Winston-Salem and face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Tipoff is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m. EST on the ACC Network.

Here are a couple of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Cardinals' matchup with the Demon Deacons:

A New Era

After the end of the last season, Wake Forest finally decided that they wanted to go in a different direction, and fired head coach Danny Manning. In his six years in Winston-Salem, he 78-111 overall and 30-80 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, never finished above .500 in the league and had just 6-49 record on the road in the ACC.

From there, the Deacs made the decision to hire Eastern Tennessee State coach Steve Forbes. In his five seasons at the helm of ETSU, he posted an overall record of 130-43, with two NCAA Tournament berths in 2017 & 2020. He also has a 130-34 record from two coaches stints with Barton County CC and Northwest Florida State, coaching the latter to the title game in both years at the helm.

He's a proven coach, but Forbes was taking over a completely overhauled Wake Forest roster, as the Deacs lost every member of their main starting five from the 2019-20 season. Not only did Brandon Childress, Andrien White and Torry Johnson graduate, but Oliver Sarr and Chaundee Brown transferred. Wake Forest did land a trio of graduate transfers, but this is a nearly completely different Demon Deacons team from last year.

Up And Down

Wake Forest, all things considered, was able to get in the win column early in the season. They opened up the 2020-21 campaign with a 60-point blowout over Delaware State, then followed that up with a win over Longwood.

Since then, things have continued to go downhill for the Demon Deacons. A few days after their win vs. Longwood, Wake Forest announced that they would be pausing team activities. Because of the pause, three of their games would get postponed with another two outright cancelled.

Making matter worse, during the pause the Deacs lost a pair of players. It was announced by the school that redshirt freshman forward and key reserve Tariq Ingraham would be out for the rest of the season, and starting graduate transfer guard Ian Dubose would be out indefinitely. Dubose has still not returned.

As you can imagine, once Wake Forest did get back to the court, it wasn't pretty. Their game back was against Division II Catawba, in which they only won by eight points. Then they proceeded to drop three-straight ACC contests against Georgia Tech, Virginia and Duke.

Take It & Run

Because of the fact that Wake Forest's three wins have come against a pair of team outside of KenPom's top 300 and a Division II school, some of their national stats are a tad misleading. Like the fact that they have 12th-most steals per game at 9.5, or that their field goal percentage is in the top-50 and second in the ACC to only Virginia.

But when you take a peek at the conference-only stats, they tell a much different story, as they are dead last in the ACC in several categories when it comes to conference-only games.

Most notably, the Demon Deacons turn the ball over on 23.7% of their possessions and have an opponent two-point field goal percentage of 66.3%. For context, these metrics would be good 318th and 344th in the country, the latter of which is 0.7% away from being dead last out of all the D1 teams who have been able to play a game the season.

To further drive the point home, 16.0% of their possessions end in steals, which would be dead last in D1, and it wouldn't be particularly close (14.8% - North Florida). Just 3.3% of their defensive possessions result in a block, which would be 342nd from a national perspective.

Until Dubose gets back, Wake Forest is primarily led by guard Isaiah Mucius and forward Daivien Williamson, the only other Deacs who average double figures. Mucius is averaging 11.3 points per game and is a solid rebounder for a guard (4.8), but he has 14 turnovers to no assists and is 3-18 on three-pointers. Williamson is better from the field (48.9%) although equally as bad from beyond the arc (4-17), but he takes much better care of the ball, dishing out 17 assists to 13 turnovers on top of his 10.2 points per game.

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