As ACC fans living in North Carolina, we've always paid attention to the other N.C. schools. We sort of see State as our second team and want Wake to do well.
Hey, two out three is pretty good.
Anyway, for all the fan anger directed at Wake's Ron Wellman and Jeff Bzdelik, which to an extent is understandable, Wake fans should take a deep breath, because their team was competitive last year and with a year under their belt, they'll be much better next season.
Start with a promising backcourt of Codi Miller-McIntyre and Madison Jones. Add in an inside force in Devin Thomas who at times was as good as anyone in the ACC as a freshman. Toss in improving players in Aaron Rountree, Tyler Cavanaugh, and Arnaud William Adala Moto. Andre Washington is a big guy with potential. Incoming freshman Greg McClinton might really fill a need at small forward.
The thing is, it's a good core of players. They're just young. And for whatever reason - and we're not saying they don't have a beef - Wake fans don't seem to see the potential here.
We saw it. We saw it at Duke, when the Deacs were still young enough to be scared and didn't really know what to do. They still had points in that game where they closed the gap.
It's also worth noting that while Devin Thomas impressed with 12 boards, he didn't score and only got four shots.
As Dean Smith might have said: freshmen (guards).
Wake's tender backcourt had a tough night.
Seven weeks later, though, they had a very different game against then-second ranked Miami, a game Wake won 80-65. Check out the guards in that game and we tossed in Thomas's stats as well:
|Devin Thomas, F||31||2-9||0-0||6-10||3||8||1||0||3||0||2||10|
|Codi Miller-McIntyre, G||28||6-8||0-1||3-4||0||2||3||1||0||3||1||15|
|Madison Jones, G||19||3-3||0-0||2-3||0||5||3||4||0||3||5||8|
That's obviously a lot better and was the highlight of Wake's season.
Growth is not a straight line, obviously. Wake played much better in the rematch with Duke, losing just 75-70 at home. But they got hammered at Maryland, lost to Georgia Tech and BC, and got solidly beat by UNC and Florida State.
They were up and down, but this is a team that started last year with a narrow win over W&M, got ripped by Nebraska, and lost to Richmond and Seton Hall, both in depressing fashion.
They were able to compete with two Top 5 teams by the end of January. That's remarkable progress, really.
What we'll learn next is a) how hard the players worked individually in the off-season, and b) how good a teacher Bzdelik is. If Wake can pull off an 18-20 win season - and to us that seems absolutely achievable and 25 or so is possible - then the Deacs are going to be fine. Their core will just keep gaining experience, strength and confidence.
What if they turn out to be really good? Some of these unhappy folk are going to really have a dilemma.