After Wake's win over Princeton, Danny Manning said something pretty key about Wake's season:
"It’s great to have Mitch back," Manning said, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. "Mitch is someone, we know he’s a very capable shooter, but it’s just his presence out there, for a freshman. He has a calming influence on the team.
"He does a good job of taking care of the ball — not necessarily getting assists, but he doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s a pretty good guy out there directing people as well."
That's Mitchell Wilbekin he's referring to, of course, and it's been awhile since Wake had a calm, steady point guard like that. It's such a good thing for his team that Manning, for now anyway, doesn't care about the other third of his primary responsibilities (assists and defense being the other two. Leadership is there but not as much for a freshman).
Princeton is always a test because of the Princeton offense, but so far anyway, this doesn't appear to be a vintage Princeton team. PU came into this game at just 5-8 and it's not like it's been a challenging schedule. One of the losses was to Incarnate Word; another to Farleigh-Dickinson.
Still, for Wake, every victory is a positive, every win streak a confidence booster, and the Deacs have won three straight.
Wake's rotation is still in a bit of flux. Wilbekin returned to the starting lineup (and indeed got the most minutes) while Madison Jones returned to the bench. Cornelius Hudson and the ACC's latest challenge to weak spellers Konstantinos Mitoglou joined Jones for Wake's primary subs. Aaron Rountree would have been part of it but he's still out with a wrist injury.
After the win, pleased but clearly cognizant of the challenge ahead on Sunday, Hudson said this: "We’re getting to rocking. We’re coming together as a team and everyone is playing well and everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do. We’re just trying to beat Louisville some way."
Here's a funny note on Louisville: remember the faux flop Chris Jones attempted against Kentucky, complete with rubbing his jaw as if he'd actually been hit?
Not too long ago, just about two weeks ago, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim was anything but a happy man. He ripped his team's fundamentals and laid into freshmen Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough, among others. Said his team just wasn't that good and might not get much better.
To hear him tell it, things are looking up: "I think we finished the year playing very well the last few games," Boeheim said. "We've come through this as well as could be expected. We're playing much, much better."
Rakeem Christmas, who has emerged as Syracuse's best player, banged knees during the game and was hurting but said afterwards that he was fine.
Non-conference play ends Friday (other than Duke-St. John's a bit later on) with Mississippi State visiting Florida State as the Seminoles follow up on Wednesday's miraculous, bizarre and never to be forgotten win over rival Florida. Of course Aaron Thomas is not eligible, and now it looks like he'll never be: according to CBSSports.com, he has an agent and thus forsakes his eligibility.
And then ACC play begins in earnest. Pitt and State play in Raleigh, Syracuse visits Blacksburg, Georgia Tech heads up to Notre Dame for an interesting test with the Irish, BC brings an improved team to Cameron, Virginia gives Miami a chance to make a mark and UNC hazards Littlejohn.
Speaking of UNC, we didn't have time to mention it last night, but the Heels got a commitment from Raymond Felton's highly regarded nephew Jalek. He's a Top 10 recruit by some accounts and UNC was always his choice.
On the downside, on New Year's Eve, UNC released a list of the employees it's either fired or intends to fire if it can.
Jamie Lee, who was a counselor for athletes who steered them to AFAM classes, was canned in October. Beth Bridger, who had left for a job at Wilmington earlier, lost her job there in October as well.
Timothy McMillan, a lecturer in the AFAM Department who signed off on some of the paper classes, resigned on New Year's Eve.
As for the party UNC would like to fire but hasn't been able to yet, that would be professor Jan Boxill. Boxill, who used to head up UNC's ethics program, still seems to be struggling with the basic concept.
Despite her documented role in the scandal, and despite outrageously posing as a woman who could impart ethics despite a distinct lack of same, Boxill is fighting for her job.
The best path for Boxill, if we still lived in a society which still understood the value of personal shame, would be to move as far away from Chapel Hill as possible and never, ever try to teach at a university again.
Next up in the scandal: UNC is obliged to respond to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which would like to know why the university wasn't more rigorous in getting the scandal exposed and resolved.