Perennial powers in the college basketball betting world will collide in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night when the #9 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (19-10, 15-11 ATS) do battle with the #8 Texas Longhorns (24-9, 10-19 ATS).
What's At Stake: The winner of this game will most likely get a chance to take on the #1 Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday for the right to go to the Sweet 16 in March Madness. The loser's season comes to a bitter and premature ending by their standards.
College Basketball Odds: Texas -5 at JustBet Sportsbook
Wake Forest Notes: The Demon Deacons put themselves in a lot of hot water for this tournament by losing four straight games right at the end of the regular season. As a result of that and a first round elimination in the ACC Tournament, they still haven't even reached 20 wins, making them one of the few teams amongst these 64 left standing that can say that. Thanks to a high-motor offense that takes a lot of shots and a defense which forces a ton of bad shots, the Deacs are a tremendous rebounding team, averaging a whopping 39.4 per game against 34.7 for the opposition. Wake's offense is stellar at 73.0 points per game, but its defense makes it go, allowing teams to shoot just 38.3% from the floor on the year.
Texas Notes: Speaking of teams that fell a long way in a hurry… Remember when Texas was ranked #1 in the country and considered a shoe-in for a #1 seed in the dance? What happened? The Horns stumbled in Big XII play and are now subjected to a very, very difficult road to the Sweet 16. Much like Wake Forest, Texas is a tremendous rebounding team thanks to its size and length. It is averaging almost an identical number of rebounds per game as the Demon Deacons (39.5 per game), but it is +9.1 rebounds per game as compared to the +4.6 for its foes. The Longhorns have the seventh ranked offense in the nation at 81.2 points per game.
Players to Watch
Aminu Al-Farouq, Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Averaging 15.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game isn't easy over the course of a season, particularly in the ACC. But Al-Farouq not only pulled it off this year, but he expected significantly better. The big man has had four straight very poor games, averaging just 9.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, numbers that must improve if the Demon Deacons are getting through Round 1 of the tournament.
Damion James, Texas Longhorns: James' descent this year was also a big part of the reason for the Longhorns' decline. He never completely fell off the face of the earth like the team did though, as he has scored in double digits in all but three games this year and had 17 double-doubles. Much like Al-Farouq, James is averaging a double-double per game at 18.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Trends of Note
-Wake Forest is 6-0 ATS in its L/6 games against teams with a winning percentage of at least .600
-Wake Forest is 10-1 ATS in its L/11 games as a underdog of less than seven points
-Wake Forest is just 6-24 ATS in its L/30 neutral site games
-Texas is 6-2 ATS in its L/8 games against ACC opponents
-Texas is 3-11 ATS in its L/14 games as a favorite
-Texas is 3-14 ATS in its L/17 games against teams with a winning record
-Texas is 2-0 ATS in the L/2 meetings with Wake Forest (both in 2004)
Final Analysis: This is a hefty pointspread for a game that looks like it is largely a tossup. The Longhorns get a bid of a nod for their rebounding advantage and the fact that they played so well outside of the Big XII this year, but Wake Forest has enough weapons both on the inside and the outside to keep up with Texas if the boys in burnt orange try to make this a track meet. Even if the Horns advance, Wake should stay in front of this number.
Selection: Wake Forest +5