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Next Up - Wake Forest

They haven’t been very good this season, but don’t sleep on the Demon Deacons

Virginia Tech v Duke
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 22: Javin DeLaurier #12 and Cassius Stanley #2 of the Duke Blue Devils defend a shot by Nahiem Alleyne #4 of the Virginia Tech Hokies during the second half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 22, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

You don’t have to be a huge fan to know that Duke and Wake Forest have some history. The rivalry goes back to the earliest days of basketball at the two schools, back to when Wake Forest was still in, well, Wake Forest.

The rivalry predated even the Southern Conference days for both schools and in a time when this mattered, it was Baptists vs. Methodists too.

There has always been a certain respect between the schools, but the rivalry itself has an undertone of...well it’s not Duke-UNC but in some ways it’s more intense than Duke-State. Duke and State bond over a mutual hatred of UNC. Wake doesn’t like them either but they’re certainly not overly fond of the Blue Devils and that has intensified greatly in the Krzyzewski era. Make no mistake - the Demon Deacons relish beating Duke. And in the modern era, they probably relish it more than beating UNC, which was the standard from the late ‘60s to the mid to late ‘80s.

It’s just been harder for them to do it since Skip Prosser tragically passed away in 2007. Dino Gaudio was okay and more so in comparison to Jeff Bzdelik, who left with a career record of 160-179. He was succeeded by Danny Manning, whose career mark after five seasons was 65-93. Toss in 11-15 this year and he’s 76-108.

Wake Forest hasn’t finished higher than 10th since 2009-10 and has only made the NCAA once since then. It’s only made it past the first round once since 2003-04.

That was okay when Wake was a scrappy underdog. Take Muggsy Bogues, who was 5-3 but who could dominate a game at knee level to most players.

When they had guys like Rodney Rogers, Tim Duncan, Randolph Childress, and Josh Howard, though, Wake could go toe to toe with anyone.

It’s just that it’s been awhile, and Danny Manning - to be kind - has struggled. He had one season with 19 wins; otherwise it’s been 13, 11, 11, 11 and so far this year....11.

He’ll almost certainly do a bit better than that but we’ll go out on a limb here and say that Wake won't have a winning season.

Does that mean we think Wake has no chance Tuesday night?

You’d have to have a very limited memory to think that because last year, Wake came within a whisker of beating Duke in Cameron.

True, Zion Williamson was out and Cam Reddish played poorly, but Duke still had lots of advantages over Wake Forest.

There they were though, just a slight roll of the ball preserving a win for Duke.

It could be that close again.

Wake and Duke played once already this season, with Duke winning 90-59 on January 11th.

The Deacs weren't at full strength though, as guard Chaundee Brown sat that one out.

He’ll play this time and Wake has some other pieces that have been dangerous at different times this season.

Point guard Brandon Childress is a senior now and has had some really good games this season. Big man Olivier Sarr has shown that he can potentially be an NBA player if he continues to develop. Andrien White is a useful guard who is averaging 11 ppg. He’s had some impressive games this year.

The main thing though, as State showed brilliantly last week, is to stick together and play hard.

Duke is famous for not taking opponents lightly and though that didn’t apply against State, you’d hope it would after that loss.

Duke has come a long way this year. Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire have both become reliable offensive players while Cassius Stanley and Wendell Moore have seriously bolstered the defense. Vernon Carey has easily exceeded expectations and Matthew Hurt is in the process of overhauling his game. He’s become a very tough-minded player who can still score but who also doesn’t back down from contact anymore.

Alex O’Connell has grown a lot this season and his defense is vastly improved. And Javin DeLaurier and Jack White have been reliable players for a long time. Joey Baker has shown a toughness that we didn't know was there.

None of this guarantees a win obviously. If anything does or could, we’d hope it would be the lessons this Duke team drew from the NC State game: play hard or go home disappointed.

The best way to win a game like this is to take over early and never let up. We don’t know if that will happen, but we do hope the lessons from State are still paying dividends.