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Next Up - Wake Forest

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Duke travels to Wake Forest Sunday, a place where no one currently on the
team has won, and a tough challenge for the Devils without question.

The previous two seasons, of course, Wake had Chris Paul, who was a tough nut
to crack - we can hear the State fans rolling on the floor, but it was
unintentional, guys! - and Justin Gray has been a latter-day Randolph Childress
at times against Duke.

Things are a bit different this year: Paul is in the NBA, making a push
for Rookie Of The Year, and Justin Gray is finding life a little tougher without
a natural point guard.

Wake has tried Gray at point, which didn't work, and also freshmen Harvey
Hale and Sharmaine Dukes. Dukes has started two games, and while he was
superb against Charleston Southern with 10 assists, three steals, and 11 points,
he was somewhat less than that against ECU, with four turnovers, three assists,
and only two points.

In fairness, though, Gray stunk a lot worse, and Kyle Visser played poorly as
well, and there are always variables we'll never know: maybe he was a
little sick, stressed over school or a girlfriend or whatever.

The point is, with only two games, who knows how well he can man the

Wake's performance against ECU was almost shockingly bad, and while it was
wretched (Gray was 1-10), they did win, and odds are they'll play better than
that on Sunday. As Virginia Tech reminded us, Duke often gets another
team's best shot, and Wake doesn't particularly like Duke, and vice versa.

It's not as intense as Duke-UNC, Duke-State, or Duke-Maryland, but there is
some animosity there. Justin Gray broke his nose against Duke as a
freshman. In his return game - also against Duke - he was
sensational. Chris Paul wasn't particularly fond of Duke, and while we
don't need to catalog his cheap shots from this distance, he had some impressive
dirty moves.

In Durham last year, as you'll remember, Duke, coming off an ugly game,
started scrubs against Wake. This instantly led to two messages. Duke's
version: you're not going to play unless you bust your ass, and we'll go
with walk-ons unless and until you get the damn message. Wake's
version: it was a "curious" move, by which Skip Prosser
apparently meant it was intended to smack Chris Paul around.

The flaw with his logic is at least two-fold: 1) Duke has done this
several times over the Kryzewski era, and 2) you only need to start one hacker
if you want to go the John Chaney/goon route.

In 1992 - we think - Duke was getting clobbered at Clemson. Krzyzewski
sat his starters and went with the scrubs. Eventually the message got
through and Duke won. In 1998 or '99, Elton Brand was starting to play
with less than acceptable intensity. To the bench! Message received:
Brand played like a man possessed when he came back in.

So there's not much to that school of thought if you've watched Duke over the
years. And if you were going to smack Paul around, wouldn't you want
Shelden Williams to do it?

Speaking of Williams, the Williams vs. Williams matchup is always good. Both
came to college as incomplete players: Duke's Williams was extremely raw
offensively and Wake's Eric Williams was a big tub of goo. Both players
have worked very hard to refine their games and their bodies, and the hard work
really shows.

Eric Williams has become a much sleeker player, able to run for an entire
game, and at times a beast on the boards. He's not nearly the player Wes
Unseld was, but his build is really similar. He's a tough guy to deal

If Kyle Visser starts, there's an interesting matchup between Visser and
Duke's Josh McRoberts, who has become a much more aggressive player
recently. Visser is long and lean and at times has played very well, but
he is still somewhat erratic.

We're sure that Wake will at least initially assign the sometimes volatile
Trent Strickland to guard J.J. Redick, and he's exactly the sort of defender who
has given him trouble in the past. He's also Wake's leading rebounder with
8.3 per game, outrebounding both Williams and Visser, who are getting 7.8 and
6.2 respectively.

In the backcourt, Sean Dockery will surely draw Justin Gray, who, as we
mentioned, has at times been just a sensational clutch player for Wake.
That's a bit of a shift, since he often plays point on defense, but Gray is
clearly the most dangerous guard Wake has, and he is capable of exploding.

Greg Paulus will probably draw Dukes or Hale, depending on who plays
point. That's an interesting matchup - all freshmen, and while Paulus has
at times been remarkable offensively, his defense hasn't been perfect.
Both guards are a good bit bigger than he is as well.

Duke and Wake have had some very intense periods in recent years. The
Childress/Duncan years were tough for Duke, and Duke in turn has at times
throttled Wake. Yet the rivalry never really gets too ugly, in spite of
the intensity. You get the feeling that Skip Prosser (whose name keeps
coming up in connection with the Cincy job by the way) doesn't necessarily like
Duke, but he's not particularly hateful. He just goes about his business and
wins his share.

One of the other nice things about a Duke-Wake tiff, at least with Prosser,
is the pace of the game. There's not a lot of slow play; both teams are
trying to get after it as much as they can, and they get up and down in a big

Coach K has said that Duke won't go undefeated, and that seems fairly obvious
to us. Now that conference play has started, every night is a crap shoot,
basically. Wake is certainly capable of beating anyone in the league, and could
easily win this game. A lot of people may look to the ECU game as a
measurement of Wake, or as a sign of vulnerability. If it is, it's also a
warning, and you can be sure that it hit home with Prosser, who made sure it did
with everyone else as well.