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Charleston Classic: Wake Forest vs. Villanova preview - Can the #3 ‘Cats withstand ACC Challenger?

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Wake Forest blew past UTEP to set their Friday meeting with reigning Champs.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Texas-El Paso Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

After coming off of their sluggish opening round win against Western Michigan, the #4 Villanova Wildcats will face off with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Friday afternoon, looking to advance to the Finals of the Charleston Classic.

Wake is now 3-0 on the season after an impressive 103-81 win against UTEP in their tournament opener. Coach Danny Manning has a young, talented squad that is looking to take a big step forward in his 3rd year at the helm. Here are some keys to the game:

Containing the Bigs…Again

While the ‘Cats were able to squeak out a tough 3-point road victory over Purdue on Monday night, their perceived weakness may have been exposed by Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas combining for 42 points in 51 minutes.

The Cats didn’t have much of a problem with the bigs from Western Michigan, but Wake Forest features a 6-10, 235 lb sophomore in John Collins, who could be handful. Collins is coming off of a solid freshman campaign and is currently averaging a ridiculous 20.3 PPG and 9 RPG in only 23.3 minutes of action. Nova will once again be tested on the low block as Collins takes over 50% of his shots at the rim.

Expect to see a lot of Darryl Reynolds and Eric Paschall on Collins with Josh Hart helping out. If Nova can contain Collins and get him into foul trouble on the defensive end, it should be a long night for the Demon Deacons.

Living and Dying by the Three

The three-point line is always crucial to the outcome of a basketball game, but it could be especially important in this game. We all know the Cats love to launch 3’s as they are currently taking 47% of their shots from deep. However, Jay Wright’s squad is yet to catch fire from beyond the arc after shooting 15-41 (36.6%), 7-17 (41.2%), and 9-23 (39.1%) in their first three games. That said, Wake Forest ranked 299th in the country last year in defensive efficiency and so the Cats should have no problem creating open looks inside and out.

On the other end of the floor, Nova needs to contain Wake’s shooters. As a team, the Deacs have been scorching hot from beyond the arc shooting 26-47 (55%) in their last two games.

Nova needs to be aware of some key shooters on Wake’s squad. Charlotte transfer Keyshawn Woods shot 46.6% from deep as a freshman and is currently scorching the nets at 8-11 this year. Mitchell Wilbekin is a junior guard that has taken a ridiculous 71% of his shots from the 3-point line over his career and has started off the year hot, knocking down 6-13. Konstantinos Mitoglou is a 6-10 stretch four that can step out and knock down shots. He hasn’t been very efficient over his career, but Mitoglou presents a unique match-up for any team and shot 4-6 from deep against UTEP. If Nova can take advantage of Wake’s swiss-cheese defense and contain their shooters, they should vault into the finals.

Can Paschall Keep it Rolling?

Eric Paschall is coming off the best game of his (albeit) short Villanova career, scoring 17 points in 23 minutes. Even though he was in foul trouble for most of the Purdue game, Paschall showed flashes of his potential, scoring 11 points and knocking down two from beyond the arc in only 9 minutes of action. It would be great to see Jay Wright get Paschall involved in the game early and often against an underwhelming Wake Forest defense to keep building his confidence.

At 6-7, 250 lbs, Paschall has a Draymond Green-like skillset. On the defensive end, he has great length with a 6-11 wingspan and the girth to body up taller opponents. On offense, he can do a little bit of everything with an impressive handle for his size and a solid shooting stroke. Looking ahead, he could be the key to Nova’s success this season as they will look to play their smallball “death” lineup a ton.