College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Northwestern vs. Wake Forest: Who Has Edge in Close Big Ten/ACC Challenge Matchup?
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured: Daivien Williamson
- After losing its first game of the season, Wake Forest hosts Northwestern in a Big Ten/ACC Challenge battle.
- The Wildcats' only loss is to Providence on a neutral court.
- Mike Randle offers up his top selection for this game between two major conference teams.
Northwestern vs. Wake Forest Odds
-110o / -110u
|Wake Forest Odds|
-110o / -110u
Northwestern (5-1) and Wake Forest (6-1) have been two of the surprise teams in college basketball. The Wildcats were predicted 12th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten, while the Demon Deacons were predicted 13th out of the 15 teams in the ACC.
Both teams balance an efficient offense with strong on-ball defense.
Which team should bettors back in this battle of surprise teams in two of college basketball’s best conferences?
Head coach Chris Collins entered his ninth year leading the Wildcats sitting on the proverbial “hot seat.” The Wildcats have won an average of 4.8 conference games since Collins signed his extension after the 2017 season.
However, the Wildcats are hoping to reverse a trend from last season. Northwestern started 6-1 before losing 13 consecutive games.
The Wildcats have played tough opponents in Providence and Georgia so far this season, but this game against Wake Forest is their first true road matchup of the season.
Collins preaches a defensive brand of basketball, ranking inside the top 37 in adjusted defensive efficiency three times since the 2017 season. The Wildcats tallied nine steals in their 74-62 victory over Georgia.
Northwestern usually has a big size advantage with 6-foot-10 senior Pete Nance (17.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG) and 6-foot-10 Ryan Young (13 PPG, 3.7 RPG).
The Wildcats’ perimeter is handled by flammable Boo Buie (17.5 PPG, 6.2 APG), who has greatly improved his scoring volatility. Last season, Buie posted 10 games of single-digit scoring within a 12-game span, including consecutive zeros.
This season, Buie has scored 11 points or more in every game, including consecutive 22- and 23-point games in the Wildcats last two outings.
Wake Forest has enjoyed a fantastic season but has struggled over the past game and a half.
They gave back a 22-point lead to Oregon State, before winning 80-77 in overtime, then got pushed around defensively by LSU. The Tigers registered 14 steals en route to a 75-61 win in the championship game of the Emerald Coast Classic.
Now, the Demon Deacons return home, where they are 4-1 against the spread with an average cover margin of 6.5 points.
Head coach Steve Forbes has Wake Forest playing fast and efficient. The Demon Deacons have hit 87 or more points in each of their last four home games. They are shooting 36% from 3 as a team and 58% from inside the arc (top-20 nationally).
Wake Forest also excels at pressuring the ball, ranking top-30 in defensive steal percentage, which often leads to easy transition baskets.
Forbes has used the transfer portal to create a roster that fits his motion offense with size in the front court.
Wake Forest’s two leading scorers are Oklahoma transfer Alondes Williams (19.3 points per game) and senior Daivien Williamson (15.6, 40% 3P), who followed Forbes from East Tennessee State two years ago.
Forbes also added 6-foot-8 Indiana State transfer Jake LaRavia (14.7), 6-foot-10 Mississippi transfer Khadim Sy (6.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG) and 7-footer Dallas Walton (5.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG), who joined the Demon Deacons from Colorado.
The size and depth on the frontline will provide resistance for Nance and Young, something Northwestern experienced in its only loss of the season (vs. Providence).
Northwestern vs. Wake Forest Betting Pick
This is a matchup of two solid teams, but the size of Wake Forest and home-court advantage translate to more than a two-point spread. I project the Demon Deacons to get their pace at home and I can’t see Northwestern scoring enough to win this game.
In a close battle between two evenly-matched teams, I see Wake Forest pulling ahead late to cover the low two-point spread.
Pick: Wake Forest -2 (Play up to -2.5)
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