Wake Forest’s win shouldn’t be ignored

For the first time since February 13, 2010 against Georgia Tech, Wake Forest defeated a ranked team last night.  Last night’s win had Winston-Salem partying like 2009, though.

That year, the Demon Deacons, led by Jeff Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu, finished conference play with an 11-5 record, including wins against eventual national champion North Carolina and a top-ranked Duke team.  That was Wake Forest’s second season under Dino Gaudio, and the sky appeared to be the limit.

The following season, the one including that win over Georgia Tech, would be Gaudio’s last, despite a 9-7 ACC record and an NCAA appearance.  Jeff Bzdelik assumed the head coaching role for the 2010-11 season.  That year, Wake Forest was an abysmal 8-24, including a 1-15 ACC record. Last season was only a minor improvement, 4-12 in the ACC.

So while NC State’s return to ACC prominence has been much discussed, Wake Forest’s revival further west on I-40 has gone under the radar.  They weren’t predicted to win the ACC, nor should they be.  After the last couple of seasons, though, even a 3-3 start to conference play is a breath of fresh air.  Especially if that start includes a win over an in-state rival.

It’s far too early to say Wake Forest is “back.” However, they did take a big step towards “back,” wherever that is, with last night’s victory.  Jeff Bzdelik will be able to point to this win to players and recruits as evidence that they can hang with their more discussed brethren in North Carolina.  The next step, entrenching themselves in the discussion, will be a larger one.

Sure, NC State will be dissected for the loss from now until Saturday, when they host the North Carolina Tar Heels.  But if you get a chance, take a moment to remember that Wake Forest had to win the game, too, led by a breakout game from freshman Devin Thomas: 25 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks.  We might look back at last night as a milestone game for NC State, if their season goes off the rails. But we might also look back and see a turning point for Wake Forest, a team returning to former glory.

Today, on NCAA: Miami: Naturally, after yesterday’s post regarding the NCAA investigation at Miami, a new hiccup has developed.  It was announced today that the NCAA uncovered an issue in their practices during this investigation.  To summarize, some of the information they acquired through means other than their investigation (specifically, during bankruptcy proceedings with Nevin Shapiro). The NCAA states this information was obtained improperly and “would not have been accessible otherwise” and is therefore not fair game for their investigation of and pending allegations against Miami.

What does this mean for Miami? Well, one would have to think that, if some of the information the NCAA was using is no longer usable, it lessens the blast headed their way (It’s important to note the NCAA does not explicitly state this in the release)****.  Depending on what information that is, this could either be really good news for Miami or entirely inconsequential.  However, it will also delay the impending Notice of Allegations, as the NCAA is now undergoing an external review of their investigation practices and “…will not move forward with a Notice of Allegations until all the facts surrounding this issue are known.” And if the NCAA investigates itself at the same rate it investigates its member institutions, that could be even more waiting for the Hurricanes.

Sunshine Showdown: While all that waiting is happening, all eyes will be on the matchup of the ACC’s top two teams tonight in Coral Gables, as the Miami Hurricanes host the Duke Blue Devils.

The Hurricanes remain the only team without a loss in conference play in the ACC, sitting at 4-0.  However, that streak will be tested by the nation’s top-ranked team.  Miami has won on the strength of its defense, holding each of its ACC opponents to fewer than 60 points.  The Blue Devils are not Boston College or Georgia Tech, though.

Both Duke and Miami will be missing key pieces, as Ryan Kelly and Reggie Johnson have been sidelined for the majority of January.  Miami has thrived with key contributions from Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble in Johnson’s absence. They will need a big game against Duke’s Mason Plumlee, a national player of the year candidate.

However, the game could also be won on the perimeter.  Kadji is able to spread the floor with his three-point shooting, and guards Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney Jones can also shoot from distance.  However, few teams in the nation are better at getting three-point shots than Duke, with sharpshooters Quinn Cook and Seth Curry. This is where Kelly’s absence is most felt for Duke, as he was a 52% three-point shooter before his injury.  Whichever team can deny perimeter shots with the most success (and make a few of their own) will have a huge advantage.

As we noted on Monday, home teams are having considerable success over the past week. Both Wake Forest and Maryland won at home last night, meaning the last seven ACC contests have been in the host’s favor.  Will Miami’s home court advantage play a role in tonight’s game, or will Duke be able to establish itself as the clear favorite in the conference?

****Edited 1:44 PM – During a press conference, the NCAA’s Mark Emmert confirmed this

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