Wake Forest has been through some uncomfortable moments early in this season, so at least the Demon Deacons have been tested in various ways.
That’s not the case so much with Utah, which could receive its first challenge of the season when taking on Wake Forest on Thursday night in the nightcap of the opening round of the Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C.
Utah (2-0) has home victories against Eastern Washington and UC Riverside.
“We took care of business. We won at home,” Utes coach Craig Smith said. “I thought we got out of these games what we needed to — first of all, victories, but I thought we got better and we learned some things about our team.”
Wake Forest (1-1) has faced double-figure deficits in both its games, pulling out a victory against Elon but falling at Georgia.
There have been stretches of inefficiency that the Demon Deacons want to address.
“For us, we took too many bad shots from 2,” head coach Steve Forbes said. “We launched at the rim, had too many dribble pull-up 2s.”
Shot selection as a whole has been an issue.
“We didn’t shot-fake at the rim when we knew they were going to be there,” Forbes said. “We just threw up bad shots.”
Forbes said he wants to see more consistent defensive pressure from the team’s guards.
Utah might be a challenge from a scouting perspective. Seven Utes are averaging double-figure points, led by Cole Bajema at 15 per game. Utah has had at least five players in double figures in each game.
This could be a matchup of some of the tallest players in the country. Utah has the second-tallest team in the country, with 7-foot-1 Lawson Lovering, a transfer from Colorado, and 7-foot Branden Carlson. Wake Forest has 7-1 Matthew Marsh and 6-10 Andrew Carr.
Smith, in his third year in Salt Lake City, has guided the Utes to in-season tournament championship games in each of the past two seasons, winning the Sunshine Slam in 2021.
The Utah-Wake Forest series is tied at 2-2, though this will be the first neutral-court meeting. They last met in December 1998, with Utah winning 63-45.
Next for the winner will be Friday’s semifinal against the No. 6 Houston-Towson winner. The losers of those games will play in a consolation game.