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Next Up - Wake Forest

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| N&O
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| Fayetteville
After the loss at State, Duke travels to Wake Forest Wednesday
night to take on the very dangerous Demon Deacons. Wake seems to have
shaken off whatever was bothering them. With recent wins over Clemson and
Cincinnati, they should be more confident. Clemson is tougher than people
realize, even though they're not winning much, and Cincinnati is a legitimate
national power.

For Duke, it's a key game, though at this point of the season,
a win is not as critical as how the team plays. We'd be willing to bet
that Krzyewski would almost rather have a team in February lose while playing
with immense passion than to win casually. As March approaches, that's
what you want to see in your team - a desire to fight every play to the finish,
to come hard at opponents even if you're at a disadvantage, and to never
quit. To paraphrase Churchill, you want to fight on the blocks, you want
to fight on the perimeter, you want to fight on the floor for loose balls, and
you never, ever surrender.

It's coming up to the time of year, in short, where Duke
becomes Duke. So while we are hoping, like anyone else, for a victory,
what we'll be focusing on are how well Duke is communicating, how well defense
is played, how well they get the ball down low, and how they fight Wake Forest
on the boards.

Obviously this isn't Wake's biggest team, but Skip Prosser
teaches rebounding as well as anyone around, and his teams go at it very, very

Yet all of the things listed come down to one basic thing,
which is the first one mentioned: communication. See a pick coming? Call
it out. A switch? Call it out. Open in the corner? Call it out.

One of the little things you might not notice about Duke
basketball, but which is a telling detail, is that you'll rarely hear anyone
call more than one syllable. So it's Shav, Shel, Chris, and so on.
It's a smart principle, and a sign of the level of organization the program
thrives on: yelling Shelden is less effective and takes longer than yelling Shel.
We're not saying Shel is what they call for Shelden, but you get the
point. That's an important thing at Duke.

One of the things we greatly admire about how the program is
run is that a lot of military principles of teamwork are incorporated. So
when things go as they should, like when Duke completely conked Michigan State
earlier, what you see is basically a civilian demonstration of military
structure and practices. The Iroquois call Lacrosse the Little Brother of
War, (and their version is just one step shy of war, too), but you could almost
call what Duke does the same thing.

Against Wake, you have to start with Chris Paul, who has
really established himself as a superb point guard, who already has to be talked
about, along with Muggsy Bogues and Skip Brown, as being one of Wake's best

He has basically supplanted Taron Downey now, and we wonder
how Downey has handled the transition. On one level, what can you say? He's
better. There's no question about it. On another, though, it is not
easy to give up your status. And it's not like he's going to be out Justin
Gray, who is a tremendous player.

And one step beyond that, one has to wonder what Trent
Strickland did to get left home for the Clemson game. Reportedly, there was a
disagreement with Prosser at practice, but that's all we've heard.

So while you have to wonder if unhappiness at some level has
played a role in Wake's struggles, you can't really make a game plan around
that. To control Wake, you have to start with Paul. We're assuming that
Duhon and Ewing are sufficiently recovered from their illness to play stern
defense, because Wake's perimeter is tough.

We're more concerned about the status of Luol Deng and Shelden
Williams. State did a brilliant job defending them the other day, but even on
defense, neither seemed as explosive as they have at times been.

So while we don't have any particular insights on how much the
four ailing players have recovered, we do know what we have seen in the past
from Duke after a loss. The next game, win or lose, usually shows great mental
toughness, and that's what we'd suggest looking for. If it's not there,
then there could be a bigger problem. But if it is there, then the path to
March becomes more interesting.