For the second time in 10 days, Duke faces Wake Forest, this time in Winston-Salem, and the Demon Deacons are in a spot.
Wake has lost five in a row and seven out of eight. For the most part though it’s not like they’re getting crushed.
True, Tennessee won by 19 and Duke by 18 but otherwise the games haven’t exactly been blowouts.
Boston College was a six point loss, Virginia Tech eight, NC State nine and most impressively, #2 Virginia was a 10 point game.
We’ll be the first to admit that we find Wake Forest baffling. It’s not a roster totally lacking in talent. Bryant Crawford, Keyshawn Woods and Chaundee Brown are all pretty good. Brandon Childress is coming on and Mitchell Wilbekin, while not an NBA caliber player, is tough and smart. A number of the younger players have real potential and Doral Moore is just huge and has improved steadily during the season as you would expect when your primary tutor is Danny Manning, one of the best big forwards of all time.
So has Wake Forest improved? The team we saw play Virginia was down just one with 8:45 left and just five with 4:11 left.
It’s really hard to surge against Virginia but on a couple of occasions the Demon Deacons did it.
The problem for Wake Forest, as it so often has been the last few years, is winning time.
For whatever reason, Wake just struggles to finish opponents off.
Of course that’s harder to do against teams like Duke and Virginia. They’re both Top Five teams and Virginia’s system is brilliantly designed to restrict opponents and Duke has overwhelming talent that’s hard to control.
Start with Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter. The pair have dominated opponents all season and both are probably more agile and athletic than Moore or anyone else Wake Forest has. That doesn’t mean you can't counter them - we expect Virginia will have a plan - but it makes it a lot tougher.
Wake has to control them and Duke’s perimeter game and that’s gotten tougher lately.
Grayson Allen has been in a slump but shot well against Pitt this past weekend. Gary Trent, who a few weeks ago was being sort of dismissed by the punditocracy, has become a huge force for Duke on offense obviously but also on defense and just in terms of toughness.
And in the last game, Allen and point guard Trevon Duval combined for 10 points with Allen scoring just two.
Let’s stop and consider Duval for a minute. For much of this season the knock on Duval has been his poor shooting. That has changed. Duval’s shooting has improved a lot and apparently there’s a reason for that.
Duval has had a problem with his left eye for a long time and he hid it from everyone. Duke has worked with him on it and now he seems to be much better. It’ll be interesting to see how he does with peripheral vision as well and if he starts cutting to his left more.
His shot certainly seems to be improved and though it’s a bit early to understand how big of a factor that will be, he’s hitting 40% from three point range in ACC play. That’s a small sample size but it’s pretty good.
Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier both sat out from the first Pitt game and while DeLaurier returned for the Pitt rematch, Bolden has not yet made it back. We haven’t heard anything about his availability Tuesday.
Duke made it through those games with a sharply limited bench and the guys who had to play really stepped up well.
Alex O’ Connell in particular has emerged as a solid sub but Justin Robinson, Jordan Goldwire, Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White have all held their own.
Duke’s defense has also started to improve.
Yet how many times has Duke gone to Joel and seen Wake Forest come out and play inspired basketball? We’d never rule out a Wake win up there even in a bad stretch or a bad year.
This is ACC basketball, so your best bet is to expect the unexpected. Duke always gets everyone’s best shot and we fully expect that from Wake Forest Tuesday.
- Duke’s Coach K says his players are learning to ‘dance together’
- Wake Forest aims for upset in rematch with No. 4 Duke
- Wendell’s Upward Swing
- Confessions Of A Sports Pollyanna
- Gary Trent Collects Two ACC Weekly Honors
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