After getting off to a 16-0 start to the season, Wake Forest now finds itself struggling with two straight defeats and three losses in their last four games. The Demon Deacons look to avoid making it a third consecutive loss in the ACC on Sunday when they host Boston College at home in the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Wake is drawing 10½-point chalk for this one.
The march to March Madness is underway. It’s going to be wall-to-wall college hoops before long, so to help you get up to speed, we’ve broken up our usual betting tripleheader into two parts.
We’ll focus on a pair of marquee matchups in this article, starting with a rare February non-conference battle between two big-name clubs.
Notre Dame at UCLA (-10½)
Saturday, Feb 7, 1:00 p.m. (ET) CBS
The Fighting Irish (12-9 SU, 4-11 ATS, No. 54 Pomeroy) keep finding ways to put money in the pockets of faders. They’ve lost six in a row SU and seven ATS, most recently dropping a 93-83 decision at Cincinnati (+2½) on Wednesday. This is a Notre Dame team that was in the Top 25 of the coaches poll as recently as last week, and still managed to pull in a handful of votes this week. It’s been a month since Notre Dame beat Georgetown 73-67 as a 3-point home fave. The Hoyas are 3-5 SU and 1-6-1 ATS since then, which speaks volumes about the value of both teams.
Notre Dame is a famous institution – for football. But the betting public might be more deceived by the outstanding Irish offense, with star forward Luke Harangody dropping 25.3 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. If only the Irish could play defense. They’re ranked No. 148 in Division I in defensive efficiency, a very poor showing from one of the most veteran teams in college. There are four sophomores and zero freshmen on the roster.
Maybe that’s the problem. UCLA (18-4 SU, 11-10 ATS, No. 6 Pomeroy) loaded up on promising first-year talent like guard Jrue Holiday, who hits a remarkable 62 percent of his 2-point shots and nabs 1.5 steals in 27 minutes per game. The Bruins are also getting useful minutes from freshmen Malcolm Lee and Drew Gordon.
They haven’t been as successful yet replacing Kevin Love at center, leaving their defense at No. 33 in the nation in efficiency – down from No. 3 in 2008. But the offense is brilliant, improving from seventh overall last year to third this year. The Over is 13-8 for UCLA and 8-6 for the Irish.
Boston College at Wake Forest
Sunday, Feb 8, 4:00 p.m. (ET)
Wake Forest (17-3 SU, 9-7 ATS, No. 19 Pomeroy) is unraveling before our eyes. Since capturing the No. 1 spot in the polls on Jan. 19, the Demon Deacons are 1-3 SU and ATS. Their last game was an embarrassing 79-52 road loss to the Miami Hurricanes (+2½), who stifled the Deacs with a zone defense – smart move, because the Deacs are No. 243 in Division I with a poor 32.2-percent success rate from downtown. They hit just three of 20 attempts Wednesday against the Hurricanes.
There’s a perception problem when it comes to valuing the Wake Forest offense. In terms of pure point production, the Deacons are ninth in the nation at 81.4 points per game. But this pile of points is created running the eighth fastest pace in college hoops at 74 possessions per game. That’s seven more than the Division I average – which also gives the opposition roughly seven more chances to score. Wake is ranked No. 69 in offensive efficiency, relying on the No. 5 defense to get the job done. That defense is much stronger in the paint with 7-footer Chas McFarland and friends blocking 15.1 percent of opponents’ shots.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for Wake supporters against Boston College (18-6 SU, 11-8 ATS, No. 65 Pomeroy). The Eagles are outstanding at perimeter defense, but they allow opponents to hit 46 percent of their 2-point shots, which ranks No. 101 in Division I. The young BC offense is also not terribly good from beyond the arc at 34.2 percent (No. 164 overall), a poor combination that resulted in an 83-63 home loss to WFU (-3) on Jan. 14. There’s not a lot of room for the Eagles to improve when they head to the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum; the Deacs are 10-1 SU and 5-2 against the betting odds at home this season.