Winston-Salem, N.C. - Lawrence Joel Coliseum
7 p.m., TV - ESPN (Mike Patrick, Len Elmore)
"We know we have a great challenge ahead with North Carolina and we look forward to the challenge ... Certainly [Tyler] Hansbrough is a truly talented young man. The other guys are also very, very good. They're like Noah's Ark; they have two of everything – two outstanding players, or more, at each position." -- Skip Prosser
"It is kind of like [starting over in scouting Wake Forest] because they have so much new personnel. It's not an Eric Williams, Justin Gray dominated team. But it's still Skip [Prosser], and I still have a tremendous amount of respect for him. There are things he believes in -- he's always going to believe in -- and his teams are always going to do. You're not going to change your philosophy 180 degrees when you change personnel. ... They're going to play hard. You know they're going to try and guard you. But he's just doing it with different people, so you have to get to know the personnel." -- Roy Williams
Outlook: Living at the bottom of the ACC was a big surprise last season, but not this year. With an 11-man rotation that consists of five freshmen and four sophomores -- none of which are elite talents with the ability to make a huge ACC impact right now -- Skip Prosser's Deacs may be two years away from being able to return to the top half of the conference. Wake enters Wednesday's game on a four-game losing streak, and having lost nine of their last 13. Their best wins of the season are against Vanderbilt and at fellow ACC cellar-dweller Miami. In wins over Miami, James Madison, Richmond and Bucknell, the Deacs had to overcome double-digit deficits.
Visser's Emergence: Kyle Visser showed flashes of potential as a freshman, but fell off the map as a sophomore and junior. This season, he's been a major bright spot for the Deacs. He's ranked no lower than No. 7 in the ACC in scoring (17.4), rebounding (7.6), field goal percentage (60.5%) and blocks (1.44)
Getting the Point: Much of last season's struggles can be attributed to the lack of a true ACC-level point guard. This year, Prosser tossed small, but speedy freshman Ishmael Smith right into the fire. "He's a tremendously quick young man," scouted Roy Williams. "The times that I've seen him, he puts a lot of pressure on the defense because of his speed and quickness." Overall, for a first-year floor general on an inexperienced team, Smith's numbers have been good -- tied for second in the ACC with 5.7 assists per game and a respectable 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. But in the last two weeks (four straight ACC losses), his assist-to-turnover ratio has been a mere 0.5, thanks in part to a zero-assist, eight-turnover performance at Duke. And beyond Smith, Wake has plenty of trouble executing on offense -- the team is tied for last in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Defense?: While there have been struggles on offense, it's on defense where many games have been lost. And this is not a new theme for Prosser at Wake Forest. The Deacs have allowed opponents to shoot 47.3-percent from the field, 38.3-percent on three-pointers and they are giving up 74.5 points per game -- ranked last in the ACC in all three categories.
Apathy Spreading: Many fans in Winston-Salem appear to have lost patience with their Deacs, in what seems destined to be a second-straight ugly season. Lawrence Joel Coliseum holds 14,665, yet of the team's 10 home games, only one (NC State) has had a crowd over 10,000. Wake sold out all 18 of its home games last season. As of the start of this week, tickets for Wednesday's game were still available.
Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with Wake Forest, 148-63. UNC has actually lost six of the last eight meetings with the Deacs. This will be the fourth straight time the two teams have met in Winston-Salem. Last season, the Tar Heels pulled away in the second half for an 83-72 win, with Reyshawn Terry scoring a game-high 24 points.
10 Ishmael Smith (5-11, 155, Fr.) – 9.2 ppg, 3.6 apg 42 L.D. Williams (6-4, 210, Fr.) - 7.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg 34 Michael Drum (6-6, 204, Sr.) – 8.6 ppg 23 Kevin Swinton (6-7, 224, So.) – 3.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg 55 Kyle Visser (6-11, 255, Sr.) – 17.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg Key Reserves: 4 Harvey Hale (6-2, 186, So.) – 7.6 ppg 31 Jamie Skeen (6-8, 220, Fr.) – 7.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg 33 Anthony Gurley (6-3, 185, Fr.) – 6.6 ppg 2 Shamaine Dukes (6-1, 175, So.) – 3.5 ppg 11 Cameron Stanley (6-6, 214, So.) – 2.1 ppg 44 David Weaver (6-10, 224, Fr.) – 1.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg
Visser ....... Smith
Drum ....... Williams
Hale ....... Gurley
(Photos courtesy AP)