Wake Forest vs. North Carolina Expert Pick and Prediction – January 22, 2024
WAKE FOREST VS. NORTH CAROLINA EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – January 22, 2024 — This is the type of game that brought Steve Forbes to Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons haven’t appeared in the main draw of the NCAA tournament since 2010, but they’ve started well enough to have a chance this season. However, they’ve got to get some signature road wins on the profile to make it into the field of 68.
North Carolina would certainly qualify. The Tar Heels appear to have shaken off last season’s disaster and have now ripped off eight consecutive wins. Nobody’s beaten them in the Smith Center this season, and only Florida State and Tennessee have kept the margin to single digits.
And that’s because the Heels’ defense has played outstanding basketball for the past month. You wouldn’t know it by the start of the season, but Carolina leads the nation in 3-point defense and ranks third in opponent field goal percentage. During this eight-game surge, not one opponent has topped 70 points or come within 10 points of the Heels.
And history says Wake Forest isn’t really equipped to change that. The Deacons have just two wins all year outside of Winston-Salem: Boston College away and Towson on a neutral floor. They’ve already lost at Georgia, Florida State and N.C. State, and they haven’t exactly challenged themselves with their schedule.
Even though Wake’s tied for second in the conference, not many people are taking them seriously to this point. A strong showing here would change a lot of opinions.
(13-5 SU, 10-7-1 ATS)
(15-3 SU, 11-7 ATS)
When: Monday, January 22 at 7 p.m. EST
Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Public Bets: 51% on North Carolina/span>
Public Money: 78% on Wake Forest
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of January 21st, 2024.
Wake Forest vs. North Carolina In-Season Trends
It’s been a long time since Wake made the 90-minute drive west on Interstate 40 with a win. The Deacons haven’t won in Chapel Hill since 2010, and most of their matchups at the Smith Center haven’t come close. North Carolina has won eight in a row by seven points or more, including six of them by double digits. The Deacons have held their own in Winston-Salem, but once they come to Chapel Hill, it all goes wrong in a hurry.
Carolina’s been a cover machine since the end of finals week. The Heels have gone 7-1 ATS since the Kentucky game, with the lone failed cover being a 16-point win over Louisville when they were giving 21. The under has also usually been the play for the Heels, cashing in five of their past six contests.
Wake’s been the opposite, cashing the over in eight of its past nine contests. But the Deacons have just one road cover all season, that being the win against Boston College. In their other two road ACC contests, they’ve failed to cover by at least five points.
RJ Davis has proven deadly on his home floor this year. In his past six games at home, he’s scored no fewer than 20 points. Carolina depends greatly on Davis to put up numbers, and there’s a pretty wide gulf between his scores at home as opposed to away. In his past four road games, he hasn’t shot better than 38.5%, while that’s his floor in the Smith Center.
Wake needs more on the boards from Andrew Carr. Whenever you play North Carolina, it’s a war in rebounding, and Carr leads the Deacons in rebounds. However, he managed just four against N.C. State and three against Louisville, which will not cut it against the Heels. If Wake gets pounded on the boards, it’s going to get pounded on the scoreboard.
Wake Forest has things moving in the right direction, but the Demon Deacons haven’t exactly proven they can win on the road this year. Nor have they shown that they can handle facing the likes of the top teams in the ACC.
Most likely, Wake’s a middle-of-the-pack ACC team. That might be good enough to get the Deacons a bid to the NCAA tournament, but it’s probably not good enough to get them a win in Chapel Hill. The Heels should handle business here.
North Carolina -8.5