Things have taken a dark turn for Virginia - Adam
Hall is on crutches and won't play against Wake Forest. The natural
reaction is to say, well gee, now it's Wake by 50. But the emotional
reaction of Virginia is key. As reported before, Prosser
and Gillen aren't looking forward to this. Clemson thinks Wake
could win the league. That's now, after they have proven they
are a very tough team. But who gave Wake any respect at the beginning of the
season? Here's what we said at the time.
If our theory is correct -- and let's put it down to be very clear: Odom choked the life out of his teams and his own insecurities made it impossible for them to reach their potentail without a superstar like Childress or Duncan who could overcome Odom's weakness -- then Wake fans may be in for a very pleasant surprise, because Skip Prosser doesn't seem to suffer from those particular problems. He may have problems as a coach, but they aren't the ones we think Odom has. He won't diddle with the starting lineup in late February, for example, a destructive Odom tendency.
His players may not realize the difference until October, and if we are correct, and a vague oppressiveness is gone from Reynolda, Antwan Scott may be the main beneficiary. Odom said his defense kept him from playing more, and maybe that's true. But in an open, up-and-down running game, a) his offensive talent will be very significant, and b) he won't be playing the same kind of defense anyway. And like all of Wake's players, we're betting he won't be as scared to make a mistake. And since the rest of the big men are totally unproven, it's his job to lose. We're betting he makes some noise.
For Broderick Hicks, who will likely split point duties with Ervin Murray, but who may get more time in an up-tempo game, it could be a huge difference as well. Hicks has at times shown some real guts, but he always holds back. Was it the coach?
Anyway, that's a solid group of six players. Add to that Dshamal Schoetz, if he can give them at least a few minutes a game, freshman Vytas Danielus, reputed to be a pretty good player, Taron Downey, about whom we know little, and Jamal Levy, by all accounts a good athlete, and you have a pretty reasonable group. The keys are going to be confidence, which Prosser will have to earn from his players, and then accepting whatever roles he assigns. For some, it will be obvious, like Songaila, who will be a backbone of this team. For others, their roles will likely be different, either diminished or increased, but different. That can make or break a season.
Our guess is that Prosser pulls it off. He strikes us as a smart guy, and he'll offer the seniors a chance to go out with some real glory. It's a talented group, and the fresh approach will put them over the hump and make them a very dangerous team by tournament time. The conference will be very tough, but they should be able to compete with anyone.
Ahem. Some of you who sent us nasty e-mail owe us an apology. These
guys are experienced, talented, and dangerous. They're also tied for first
place, and right now, it's hard to argue that the bottom six schools can beat
In Ralegh, State is
trying to get past the pasting Duke laid on them as they head to Clemson.
Memo to Sendek: a good start would be to tell your players not to taunt the
opposition. Specifically: don't invade their court on warmups, don't shove them
before the jump ball, and be careful who you talk trash to. CC: Julius
Hodge. The Clemson game is for fourth place in the conference, which, for
State, is a jumping-off point for the NCAAs.