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Next Up - Wake Forest

Time: 3:00 || Venue: Lawrence Joel Arena || Video: ACCN

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North Carolina State v Duke
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 23: Harry Giles #1 of the Duke Blue Devils pulls down a rebound against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Next up for Duke is Wake Forest and it’s not going to be an easy game.

It’s not exactly a case of opposites, at least not in terms of ascent.

Duke has struggled and the headlines recently, rather than talking about how the team is progressing, the headlines have been about Grayson Allen under a microscope, or Coach K’s surgery and leave of absence, or Duke’s weak stretch, or Coach K calling the players to his house and kicking them all out of the lockerroom.

Or, on a more difficult basis, the news that Jeff Capel’s father’s has ASL.

Whatever it is, the focus hasn’t been on Duke like it usually is.

As for Wake Forest, as we’ve observed often, it’s a young and talented team that hasn’t quite mastered closing out games.

But Danny Manning is putting together the pieces of a terrific program.

Most of Wake’s talent is in the freshmen and sophomore classes - only Austin Arians is a senior and he’s a grad student transfer. Mitchell Wilbekin and Konstantinos Mitoglou are juniors, and both contribute but you wouldn’t say either is the future of the program.

For that you have to turn to Doral Moore, Keyshawn Woods, Bryant Crawford and John Collin, sophomore all, and Brandon Childress, Donovan Mitchell, Sam Japhet-Mathias and Rich Washington, the freshmen.

Wake has had some issues. For one, Collins has been consistently in foul trouble which has obscured a terrific year: he’s averaging 14.6 ppg and 5.9 rpg.

As a long-term investment, we’d bet on him ahead of Kennedy Meeks and Omer Yertseven. Harry Giles might be a higher prospect overall but Collins is a huge talent. He just needs to put it all together.

Wake is a bit of experience and a couple of players away from being a serious Elite Eight candidate.

As for Duke...well you probably know most of the stuff we mentioned above.

When Duke has struggled in past seasons, Coach K got down to brass tacks pretty quickly. It’s harder for him to do that when he’s not as involved as he normally is but we’re sure he’s watching video nonstop and making notes.

And his anger at his team, as reported by ESPN, his kicking them out of the locker room and telling them not to wear any Duke stuff, indicates a stern line. He’s not happy with what’s going on and there’s no reason he should be.

We’ve seen Duke play really, really well and we’ve seen Duke play like, well, not like Duke.

Losing isn’t a crime if you’ve played to your potential and the other team is better. It’s not going to make anyone happy when you don’t approach it though and Duke has had several stretches where they weren’t close to their talent.

And if we’ve learned anything from watching this program over the years, we can promise you one thing: whatever else happened in that meeting, there were no excuses about injuries, or media coverage, or inexperience or anything else.

Fans can discuss that stuff but in the locker room, or in Coach K’s living room, it’s not acceptable.

Effort, honesty and accountability.

That’s what it comes down to in Duke’s program.

So while we don’t know for sure what we’ll see tomorrow, we hope that what we’ll see is a hardworking and focused group, one that’s perhaps a bit angry.

Just a few thoughts to close out:

We’ll be interested to see how Amile Jefferson looks. He was obviously not 100% against Wake Forest.

We’ll also be curious to see how Harry Giles responds. It’s his hometown and he’s certain to be booed. How will he react?

Also Brandon Childress is a former teammate and good friend and Manning recruited him effectively. It’s a particularly intense game for him. When Seth Curry went to Virginia Tech though, he let it overwhelm him. So who knows?

Keep an eye on Duke’s intensity and defense. If those are there, Duke will be okay.

Like NC State, this game is a great measuring stick for Wake Forest. If they can knock off Duke, it’s a big coup for a young program - and they certainly know what’s being talked about here.

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