Well we warned you this might happen.
Football is a game based on punctuated rage and shift work. Baseball is a game based on avoiding responsibility. But basketball?
Because of the pace of the game, the small number of guys who can be on the court, and the smaller nature of the playing surface, basketball is both more intimate and more emotional than almost anything else, which makes it uniquely susceptible to upsets.
As we saw demonstrated anew by Wake Forest.
As we suggested in our preview, Wake had some real emotional advantages in this game: senior day, a coach who is likely to be fired in the very near future, Senior Night, and - never underestimate this in the ACC - a desire for payback. In this case, the Deacs were thirsting to stick it to Duke, but it could've been anyone else. Duke has hammered them a lot lately - this was Travis McKie's first win ever over a Duke team - but this sort of game defines the Atlantic Coast Conference.
BC had one. State almost pulled off a couple this season. Clemson and Notre Dame tagged Duke earlier. Wake beat Miami last year when the 'Canes were the toast of the basketball world.
It's part of what makes the ACC what it is.
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Not that it's any fun when it happens to your team. And the worst part is how it happened.
Down the stretch, thoroughly mediocre Wake just took it to Duke, and Duke just fell apart.
Wake scored 17 straight. That's tough to watch, especially when you know that the players are better than that, when you've seen them duel Michigan and Syracuse and the rest.
Apparently it was tough for Coach K, too. Whether it was the game or something else, Coach K suffered a bout of dizziness and trainer Jose Fonseca swooped in to check on him.
Wojo handled the press conference and said that Coach K would be fine.
"He has not been ill. He has not been ill; he’s actually in as good of shape as can be. Just the emotion of the game, obviously we weren’t playing as well as we needed, and there’s a great emotional investment into the game. Maybe the emotion got the better of him. Again, we expect a full recovery.
"He didn’t complain about feeling poorly either before the game or in the first half. There’s a great emotional investment, certainly by him. I’ve never met a better fighter than Coach K. He pours his heart and soul into everything that he does. His team not necessarily responding certainly can hit hard."
That statement should hit his team hard as well.
Because while Wake had a lot of advantages in this game, Duke wasn't ready. Rodney Hood nailed it in comments to the N&O:
"Dang thing went south. I don’t think we played together down the stretch. Once shots didn’t fall and they started scoring, we tried to rush to score rather than being patient. This one is probably the toughest loss because I knew we should have won the game."
He also alluded to his team being immature and not practicing well.
Is it a cause for alarm? We'd say more a cause for concern.
Duke's been through things like this before. In 1991, the soon-to-be national champs lost to UNC. By 20. In the ACC Tournament.
The year before that, if memory serves, the late Phil Henderson called his teammates a bunch of babies. We thought at the time that he had probably blown up the season, but it was a catalyst.
Thing is, failure is not necessarily fatal. Duke, or really we should say Coach K, is a master at drawing positives from bad losses. There's going to be some unhappiness this week, but there are also lessons. Hood hinted at it. So did Wojo.
Between now and Saturday night, there will be the normal intense preparations for Carolina, but we expect there will be more than the usual urgency. We'll see then if the lessons have been applied.