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Basketball Preview: Wake Forest

The time to prove themselves is now as the Clemson Tigers open up ACC Conference Play on the road down in Winston-Salem.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

When: 12:00pm ET

Where: Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Wake Forest, North Carolina.

How to Watch: RSN & the WatchESPN App.

With the non-conference schedule in the rearview mirror, the Clemson Tigers (10-2) will travel to Winston Salem on New Year’s Eve at Noon Eastern to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-4) (0-1). Wake Forest has owned the all-time series between the two teams holding a 99-59 lead, including a 19-3 record at home at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum. The Tigers will be looking for recent history to repeat itself as they claimed victory in the only meeting between the two schools last season, 76-62 in Wake Forest. The Tigers have won 7 of the last 8 meetings between the two schools.

The Tigers enter the contest on an 8-game win streak, the longest since the 2010-2011 season. (the last time that the Tigers made the NCAA Tournament) The Tigers concluded their non-conference schedule with an 87-73 thrashing of an 11-1 UNC Wilmington team that many thought had a chance to catch the Tigers napping and looking ahead to the beginning of their ACC slate. Jaron Blossomgame lead the Tigers with 20 points, but the true spark of the Tigers at this point has come from the guard play. Shelton Mitchell rebounded well from his worst performance of the season (a 7-turnover performance at South Carolina) with 6 assists to only 2 turnovers, and showed his ability to draw contact and get to the free throw line, making all 8 of his free throws against the Seahawks. Mitchell will be a player to watch in this game as he was originally a Wake Forest signee, and was released from his National Letter of Intent after the hiring of Danny Manning. The Tigers 8 game win streak started during Shelton Mitchell’s first start at point guard, and they have not lost since.

For the first time in a long time, we can truly say that Clemson appears to be deep at the Center position. The emergence of Elijah Thomas has allowed starter Sidy Djitte to play a little more freely and allows the coaching staff to rest Djitte without having to worry about the lack of a rim protector or down low threat. Brownell appears to be favoring about 12 minutes per game for Thomas as he continues to get into game shape, so the ability of Djitte to stay out of foul trouble will be important for the rotation to stay successful. As usual, the stingy Tiger defense has been the spark for the Tigers win streak as they rank 37th in the NCAA in points allowed. The leader of the defense continues to be Gabe DeVoe who leads the team in Steals Per Game, and has the ability to pull down double figure rebounds in a game. The effort of DeVoe has appeared to be contagious to the rest of the team, and look for him to make plays on both ends of the court.

Wake Forest will look to continue their winning ways at home, as they have been unbeatable this season at Lawrence Joel Coliseum. The Demon Deacons have yet to lose at LJVM in 5 games, with all 5 games double digit victories and an average margin of victory of 20.8. What makes Wake Forest so unbeatable at home? They just simply shoot better. Wake has shot 52.3% from the floor, and an astonishing 46.4% from three-point range at home this season. Wake Forest will be looking to avenge an ACC opening loss on the road at Florida State, by a score of 88-72. Wake Forest was in control for much of the contest before a second half surge by the Seminoles gave the Noles the lead for good.

The Demon Deacons are a well-rounded team, with four scorers averaging double figures. The Deacons are led by Sophomore forward John Collins, who averages 16.1ppg. Collins isn’t just an offensive threat for the Deacons as he also leads the team in rebounding with 9.8rpg. Collins also puts up his numbers in a hurry as he averages the fewest minutes per game (23.3 per game) of any Demon Deacon starter. Sophomore Guard Bryant Crawford, Sophomore Keyshawn Woods and Junior Konstantinos Mitoglou round up the double figure scorers for the Deacons, averaging 14.4, 13.2 and 10.8ppg respectively. If there is one thing to notice about this Demon Deacon team, it is their youth. Of the 13 scholarship athletes on their roster, 8 are either Freshman or Sophomores.

The keys to the game for the Tigers will come on the defensive end. A team like Wake Forest, who is so comfortable shooting at their home arena needs to be made uncomfortable. As a result, Clemson will have to guard closely on the perimeter. This will lead to opportunities for second chance points for the Deacons, who’s starters all crash the boards with 4 of the starters averaging over 3.5rpg. Clemson will also have to take advantage of the Demon Deacon youth. A team this young is going to be susceptible to giving up the run. This was evident in their ACC opening loss to the Seminoles. Wake Forest was up 66-61 in the second half before allowing a 17-0 FSU run to lose the lead and allow the game to get out of reach. Clemson needs to be patient, and take advantage of the opportunities to stretch a lead when they are given to them.

Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for all of your Clemson Basketball coverage.