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Why Wake Forest Lost To Duke (And Can't Really Beat Anyone Else Either)

Basically, this is the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Or pass straight.

Feb 28, 2016; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies forward Zach LeDay forward (32) gets fouled by Wake Forest Demon Deacons guard Rondale Watson (23) in the second half at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Feb 28, 2016; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies forward Zach LeDay forward (32) gets fouled by Wake Forest Demon Deacons guard Rondale Watson (23) in the second half at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

At times Wake plays like a team which really should be post-season level, whether NIT or NCAA. But this team consistently shoots itself in the foot. Take the Duke game.

Down 68-60, Rondale Watson fired up a three. It missed.  Watson shoots 27.6% from deep. At that point, Wake had missed six in  row (his made seven). Bryant Crawford, who can shoot threes, was open in the corner asking for the ball. Constantine Mitoglou was guarded in the lane by 6-4 Grayson Allen. Mitchell Wilbekin, who was to his right, had a possible angle on a pass to Devin Thomas in the lane. But Watson shot. If you have the game on tape, check the bench shot immediately after for an interesting reaction (we're not sure but it may be Anthony Bilas, son of Jay).

Next trip down, Thomas missed a driving layup, badly.

Duke missed three shots in a row, certainly leaving a window open. Still 68-60 after a Marshall Plumlee foul.

Six seconds after the foul, Crawford took a driving stab at the basket. The announcers, who rightly said that Wake "desperately" needed a basket, also said "that was a very difficult shot attempt," which was kind of them, because it was atrocious.

Duke misses gain. John Collins hit an unlikely shot, perhaps a poor choice, but at least he hit it.

68-62 Duke. Duke turns it over.

Collins shoots again, doesn't draw iron. Duke rebounds.

3:44: Deac D breaks down as Derryck Thornton hits Plumlee for a dunk.

70-62 Duke

3:23 Thomas draws a foul on a drive. Misses both foul shots.

70-62 Duke - Plumlee draws his fourth foul on offense.

Mitoglou fouls Allen right in front of the officials while trying to screen. Duke misses again.

Crawford scores on a broken play, which started when 6-9 Thomas tried to dribble behind his back in the backcourt. This was when Allen dove for the ball near halfcourt. Lucky break for Wake.

70-64 Duke. Thornton steps on the out-of-bounds line.

Plumlee draws a foul with 1:40 to go and fouls out. Thomas splits on his free throws.

70-65 Duke. Thomas fouls Chase Jeter, who as not been a significant offensive factor so far. Jeter splits his free throws.

71-65 Duke.

This is completely inexplicable: Thomas rebounded the miss. Everyone has headed downcourt except for Thomas and Crawford. Brandon Ingram has run downcourt too and has his back to Thomas.  Instead of throwning to an unguarded Crawford, Thomas throws a one-handed pass that hits Ingram's back. It's almost like dodgeball. Ingram picks it up and Thomas just...stands there. No reaction. No nothing. What just happened? Crawford then fouls Allen. After the first free throw, sophomore Mitoglou comes over to talk to senior Thomas, apparently to buck him up. On the out of bounds play, Thomas picks it up...and makes another one-handed pass to Crawford, who goes down and hits a layup. Timeout Wake Forest.

73-67 Duke.

Wake immediately fouls Alen with 1:04 left.

With a stoppage in play, a nice moment at the scorer's table between Coach K and Mitoglou.

Allen misses the first and hits the second.

74-67 Duke

Thomas dumps the ball off to Crawford for a top of the key airball (Crawford appeared confident in the shot - he was already heading down court). Wrong direction, kid - Manning pulls him, opting for sophomore Watson.

74-67 Duke. :51.2 left. Wake forces Duke to take a timeout on the inbounds. After the time out, Wake immediately fouls Thornton.

76-67 Duke

Thornton fouls Crawford, who splits.

76-68 Duke

Wake fouls Allen on the inbounds with :43.2 left. Allen misses both. Thomas rebounds and makes a brilliant outlet pass to Codi Miller-McIntyre for a layup.

76-70 Duke

Allen fouled again with :37.9 left. Allen splits.

77-70 Duke

Thomas rebounds, brings the ball down himself and passes to Miller-McIntyre, who misses a hasty three. Allen gets checked into press row and goes back to the line.

79-70 Duke

Crawford makes a great drive attempt but Luke Kennard reaches in and knocks the ball loose. Crawford recovers and gets the ball to Mitoglou, who misses. Jones joins Plumlee on the bench. with five fouls. Senior Miller-McIntyre goes to the line and splits. With :12.3 left, the game is essentially over.

So while we won't try to list the technical mistakes Wake made, and we can't list the mistakes they made in not doing the things Danny Manning wanted them to do (wrong shots, fouling the wrong guy, and so on), and we're not counting things like missed free throws, we can spot the fairly obvious mistakes. Leave aside the 18 turnovers and 59% from the foul line for the moment.

Here's our breakdown of the mistakes in the last seven minutes:

  • Watson - 1
  • Collins - 1
  • Mitoglou - 1
  • Crawford - 2
  • Thomas - 4

So in other words, Wake's senior leader made the most mistakes in crunch time, including that bizarre pass off of Ingram's back.

We should point out that Wake's other senior leader, Miller-McIntyre, was virtually invisible, other than the aforementioned fast break, which was gorgeous.

With mostly useless seniors, Wake had to rely on freshmen and sophomores. As talented as some of them are, they're just not ready.

Duke made plenty of mistakes too, and a better team would have made the Blue Devils pay. But we can't remember the last time we saw seniors let their team down this badly.

Here's one more thought about Wake Forest.

We thought last year that Manning would need some time to straighten out his team's culture. We were right about that, we think, and the final step is being done with Thomas and Miller-McIntyre. They seem like nice enough kids, but they're not very reliable leaders. Wake Forest is better off without them.

Going forward, obviously this is Manning's team. He was one of the most sophisticated big me to ever play the game. That guy understands the game from every point of view. He was a remarkably skilled player. We'll learn more about his coaching soon enough.

Last night during a time out, Randolph Childress stood up on Wake's bench and we thought, oh no, not this guy again.

All these years later.

Childress was one seriously tough customer. As he advances in his career, we expect he'll teach Wake's guards a lot about toughness. Crawford, for instance, is a huge talent, but at times you can visibly see him losing confidence. When Crawford loses faith, it's like watching one of those dancing figures businesses put out to attract attention when the air is turned off. It just fall in on itself. So does Crawford. The poor guy just crumples and deflates.

Childress's main job with this team is to teach it to be as big a badass as he was. He has big Wake ties and all that, but the guy was incredibly tough minded. We could be wrong, but it looks like a very perceptive hire by Manning. Time will tell.