Used to be, winning 20 games was a sign of a successful season. Still is to some extent, especially for some more than others.
For premier programs, however, a 20-win season is a pleasant signpost, a marker of achievement on the path to annual assurance of greater capabilities.
In this era of elongated schedules, 30 wins is an ultimate ratifying standard for national championship contenders. Elite programs reach those heights with some regularity, none more often than Duke.
In this century the Blue Devils achieved 30 or more wins 10 times in the 21 seasons, nearly every other chance they got. The other 14 teams in the ACC have combined for 30 or more victories a dozen times since 2001 – 7 by UNC, 4 by Virginia and 1 by Notre Dame.
Mike Krzyzewski holds the NCAA record with 30 or more wins. All achieved in 15 different seasons over the last 36 years at Duke.
None of this diminishes reaching the 20-win level by those programs like Wake Forest that are struggling to gain, regain, or retain competitive respectability.
Through Super Bowl weekend only two ACC teams had reached that plateau. Duke was there, as expected. And so was Steve Forbes’ Wake squad, a singular achievement at a school that last posted a winning record in 2017 and a 20-win season in 2010.
An original ACC member and a former league power, the Demon Deacons have won at least 20 games in 18 different seasons, counting 2022. Most of those top performances came in clusters – 4 under Carl Tacy between 1981 and 1984, 5 under Dave Odom between 1993 and 1997, 4 between 2002 and 2005 under Skip Prosser, and 2 of 3 years under Dino Gaudio (2009, 2010).
Now Forbes, a leading candidate with Krzyzewski and Miami’s Jim Larranaga for 2022 ACC coach of the year, may be starting a 20-run of his own.
This is the earliest in the calendar year the Deacons ever reached 20 wins, having scaled that height on Feb. 9 against NC State, perhaps the ACC’s most disappointing team. The early date aced the 2005 Deacs, who got their 20th of 27 victories, most in school history, on a Feb. 10.
In fact, all but seven previous times Wake had to go to March before recording that validating 20th victory. Not that there’s a direct correlation between getting there fastest and going the farthest.
Still, with 5 regular-season games left starting at Duke on Feb.15, the ‘22 squad already is Wake’s best in more than a decade. With both the ACC and NCAA tournaments yet to come, they’re positioned to challenge the school record for victories in a season.
Quite unexpectedly, this is one of the elite units in Wake history, poised for a rare, defining finish.
Earliest Wake Teams Got To 20 Wins
|Year||Won 20th||Record||Games After 20||Fate||Coach|
|1997||Feb. 12||24-7||LLWWLWLWL||NCAA 1-1||Odom|
|1981||Feb. 14||22-7||LLWLWLL||NCAA 0-1||Tacy|
|1977||Feb. 16||22-8||LLLLWWL||NCAA 2-1||Tacy|
|2009||Feb. 18||24-7||LWWWWLL||NCAA 0-1||Gaudio|
|2003||Feb. 26||25-6||WWWWLWL||NCAA 1-1||Odom|
|1995||Feb. 28*||26-6||WWWWWWL||NCAA 1-1||Odom|
|* Won ACC Tournament.|