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ACC Roundup

A brutal beat down in Chapel Hill while Wake falters down the stretch again in Charlottesville.

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NCAA Basketball: North Carolina State at North Carolina
North Carolina State fans can't believe what happened to their team in the Dean Dome
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s impossible to understate how thoroughly UNC whipped State’s butt Sunday afternoon.

Sure you occasionally see some big ACC wins - Duke just beat Georgia Tech by 53 a few days ago - but Georgia Tech is rebuilding and they’re going to take some beatings while that’s happening.

State and UNC aren’t all that far apart though and moreover, it’s a big rivalry game. How often do you see something like that? It’s pretty unusual to say the least.

You almost feel bad for the Pack because, let’s face it, a 51 point loss to your biggest rival is humiliating.

And perhaps the rockiest night in some ways was had by Dennis Smith.

State’s freshman guard has been brilliant this season, as good as anyone in the country.

Not Sunday.

Smith picked up three first half fouls, had six turnovers shot just 4-11 and generally played with a lack of poise you’d expect from someone with his talent. But we forget that he’s still young, just a freshman. He’ll be fine in the long term. But Sunday had to hurt.

But there’s no sugarcoating how bad this loss was. The N&O’s Luke DeCock says it’s the worst loss in almost a century.

A century!

Obviously folks in Chapel Hill aren’t unhappy. Modern words barely apply. UNC smited the Pack; State was smitten, smote, laid waste to.

The only question is how State reacts. The Wolfpack has four winnable games coming up - at BC, then Georgia Tech, Pitt and Wake Forest at home before traveling to Cameron for another neighborhood brawl.

Ah, Wake.

How often do you watch a game and see exactly where a team falls apart?

For Wake Forest it happened in the second half, specifically at the 8:36 mark.

Darius Thompson missed a jumper and Wake lost track of Jack Salt, who dunked the miss and was fouled.

Virginia had led 46-49 and that play just broke the Deacs. Next trip down Wake Forest rushed two three pointers and essentially conceded the contest.

In games like this, with opponents who are young or not confident, Virginia’s defense is just like a constrictor. It squeezes the life out of you and the harder you fight, the worse it gets.

It was so bad that in the closing seconds, Virginia’s Marial Shayok just threw the ball at the rim as the shotclock and game clock were about to expire - and hit a three pointer.

He didn't even want it.

For Wake, it’s more of the same. The young Deacs compete well for 75-80% of the game then collapse down the stretch.

It is worth remembering that this is still a very young team. Transfer Austin Arians is a grad student but he’s a first-year player for Wake. Konstantinos Mitoglou is a junior but he’s rarely a dominant force. Greg McClinton, the last Jeff Bzdelik recruit on the roster, isn’t a significant factor.

Mitchell Wilbekin is a junior but after that it’s sophomores and freshmen. John Collins is talented but foul prone, Bryant Crawford’s confidence is fragile, Doral Moore is Collins’ backup, and Brandon Childress is a freshman as are Rich Washington and Donovan Mitchell.

Keyshawn Woods is a transfer soph who sat out last season but who knows the system well enough.

Wake has talent but like any young team it has to learn how to win.

If we could do one thing for the Deacs it would be to have Crawford gain confidence. He’s a talented kid but we’ve seen him visibly crumble on the court more than once. Talent doesn't equal nerve of course.

There was an HBO documentary a while back on a mafia hit man they called the Ice Man. His psychologist did some lab work and reported to him that he had a gene called - we think - NeuroD2 which affects how we feel fear and assess risks.

His shrink said that in his case it allowed him to do things most people could never do but that in a different person, it could express in very different ways. He speculated that Michael Jordan might have the same gene and that in his case, with his environmental factors, it allowed him to be absolutely fearless and to never be concerned with failure.

The Iceman was terrifying but the comparison to Jordan was fascinating. One wonders if Christian Laettner shares that genetic expression.

Anyway, it’s pretty clear that Crawford doesn’t, and when your point guard gets rattled, it affects your whole team.

If it were Duke, we’re pretty sure Coach K would have tried Wilbekin or Childress at point to see if they could help stabilize the team.

It’s easy to look at Crawford, or at least on Saturday Smith, and think, God that guy really sucks (or sucked).

But it’s also important to remember that these are teenagers who are extraordinarily talented, to be sure, but who are on really big stages. They have the same challenges and struggles as all their classmates and friends have, but also a unique set of challenges and pressures.

We want Crawford to do well and to live up to his athletic potential. But not everyone does and that’s fine. He may find different and more significant talents. Tony Chennault left Wake for Villanova when his mother became ill and found a passion for film making.

Who knows what Crawford’s journey holds? He has a significant talent for this game but like Chennault, he may find other passions soon enough.

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