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B1G/ACC Challenge Preview: Minnesota vs. Wake Forest

The Big Ten looks for another Challenge road win in Winston-Salem.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)

Date/Time: Tuesday, December 2 - 7:00 p.m. ET

Location: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem. NC

TV: ESPNU

The Big Ten and ACC kicked off their annual fracas last night when Rutgers and Nebraska stole road wins to give the Midwestern league a 2-0 advantage. Tonight, action continues with six more games. While Ohio State at Louisville should be an entertaining game and is the clear headliner of the night, Minnesota visits Wake Forest to provide a tasty appetizer, and one that the Big Ten hopes to gobble up with gravy on top.

Getting to know Wake Forest

I still don't know what a Demon Deacon is, but I know that this Wake Forest squad, coached by Kansas legend Danny Manning, can do one thing well. It can rebound like heck and then rebound some more. According to KenPom, the Deacons are the best team in Division I at defending the defensive boards, with less than one in five opponent misses staying at that end. Devin Thomas leads the way with 11.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, and the junior forward excels at drawing fouls as well.

The backcourt is a three-headed "monster" of Madison Jones, Mitchell Wilbekin, and Codi Miller-McIntyre. Neither of the three is very adept at putting the ball in the hoop, with Miller-McIntyre coming through with volume (11.3 points per game), but only shooting 39 percent from the field. In fact, this whole Wake Forest squad is pretty terrible at shooting. It ranks 200th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency and shoots just 31 percent from beyond the arc. Wilbekin has gone 12-for-27 from three-point land so far, and he's the one guy you really have to look out for.

Fortunately for the Deacons, defense is another story. They do a great job preventing second chances, and their opponents are shooting even worse from three-point range than they are (28 percent). If Minnesota can reverse that trend, victory should be within reach, as this defense hasn't stopped Wake Forest from already dropping three games on the season. Most recently, Manning's team lost to Delaware State on Friday.

What to watch for

Minnesota exactly been an offensive juggernaut itself so far. If Andre Hollins can't get his shot to fall early, this game could get quite ugly. Richard Pitino has gone mostly with a smaller lineup featuring Joey King at power forward, but look for him to beef things up with Elliot Eliason alongside Maurice Walker if the Gophers are having trouble keeping Wake Forest off the boards.

The physical battle down low should be key, as we expect the Minnesota backcourt to outscore its counterpart. That could be a moot point, however, if the Deacons grab a ton of their own misses. One way the Gophers can strike back, though is in the turnover game. The Minnesota defense is one of the best squads in the country at forcing miscues, and Wake Forest has a young team that is prone to them.

Projected starting lineups

Minnesota Wake Forest
PG 5'9" Deandre Mathieu PG 6'1" Madion Jones
SG 6'2" Andre Hollins SG 6'2" Mitchell Wilbekin
SF 6'5" Carlos Morris SF 6'6" Cornelius Hudson
PF 6'9" Joey King PF 6'9" Devin Thomas
C 6'10" Maurice Walker C 6'10" Konstantinos Mitoglou

Prediction

Although Minnesota hasn't exactly played like gangbusters this season, the Gophers should still be strong enough to defeat Wake Forest on the road provided they don't get crushed on the glass. Minnesota wins 60-54