A premier matchup is on tap in first-round action of the Paradise Jam, as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons take on the 23rd- ranked Connecticut Huskies at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center in St. Thomas.
The winner of this contest will move on to face either Iona or Quinnipiac in the next round on Saturday.
Two of the ACC's top players return to Wake Forest this season and that alone is reason for great optimism in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons opened their 2012-13 season at home last Friday with a 79-67 victory over Radford.
Kevin Ollie's first season in Storrs has gotten off to a great start. Connecticut opened the Ollie era in Germany against nationally-ranked Michigan State and pulled off a 66-62 upset. The team returned home three days later and made light work of Vermont at the Gampel Pavilion, 67-49.
This is the third time these two teams have met on the hardwood and first time since 1991. Wake won the first meeting in 1969 (103-77), with UConn returning the favor 22 years later (84-75).
There aren't many teams that boast of two prolific scorers like Wake Forest does. Senior guard C.J. Harris and junior forward Travis McKie are as potent a one-two punch as there is in the nation. Harris averaged 16.7 ppg a year ago, followed closely by McKie's 16.1 ppg. Add a star-studded recruiting class that includes guard Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas.
In the opener, Wake flexed its offensive muscle and showed off its depth, shooting a scorching .636 from the floor with six Demon Deacons finishing in double figures. Harris got out to a fast start, netting a team-high 19 points. McKie just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Chas Fisher came off the bench to net 11 points as well, while Thomas, Arnaud Adala Moto and McIntyre-Miller chipped in 10 points apiece.
UConn has a dynamic playmaker of its own in junior guard Shabazz Napier, who comes into this contest averaging 19.0 points per game. Napier was particularly impressive in the opener against the Spartans, finishing with 25 points in the upset victory. The Huskies haven't exactly lit up the scoreboard in the first week of action, netting 66.5 ppg, but they are doing so on a decent .455 shooting. Joining Napier in double figures is sophomore Ryan Boatright (11.0 ppg). Fellow sophomore DeAndre Daniels is right behind (9.5 ppg), while junior forward Tyler Olander (6.5 ppg) is the top rebounder (7.5 rpg).
In the win over Vermont, Napier once again led the team in the scoring column although it was with a modest 13 points. Omar Calhoun added 12 points, while R.J. Evans tallied 11 points off the bench. Olander just missed out on a double-double, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds.