An awesome day requires an awesomely overwrought headline, and very few things compare to Duke and Wake being defeated by a combined 54 points. And that's not one bad loss masking one good game; both match-ups were twenty-seven point blowouts. What went wrong?
For Wake, part of the problem was that they had to leave the friendly confines on Winston-Salem. I'm not sure what it is about those hideous yellow and black tie-dyed shirts, but the Demon Deacons have struggled without them. Last year in conference Wake was 6-2 at home and 1-7 on the road. The year prior to that 4-4 and 1-7 respectively. So it's no coincidence that this two game losing streak coincides with a two-game road trip. The team was discombobulated, playing a much slower pace than they were used to, shooting a UNC-at-its-worst 3 for 22 from behind the arc and allowing Jack McClinton to go off for 6 three pointers and 32 points against Wake's usually stellar perimeter defense (UNC as a team managed six threes against Wake; Duke, only four). With a home game coming up against Boston College, who the Deacs already stomped by twenty on the road, and two of the remaining four road games against State and Virginia, Wake will right itself. But they're mortal to teams that can outrebound them and frustrate them in the paint.
Duke's February difficulties are much documented, but rather overhyped. Sure two years ago they lost their first four games of that month, but generally the wheels don't fall off the bus until the end of the month and the onset of the ACC Tournament. And yes, I place the blame primarily on Krzyzewski's inability to develop a bench over the last decade. Sports Illustrated published a chart way back in the day showing that begininning in 2000, the team dropped down to only six player averaging more than six minutes a game. That's mostly held true since then, and although so far this year nine players have gotten more than double-digit minutes, a lot of that is garbage time at the end of the game. Last night, Krzyzewski subbed in an entire second team at times looking for something that works, but for the most part relied on the same six players. When they go cold from behind the arc in a game where the other team takes care of the ball - the Tigers had twelve turnovers but only lost the ball to steals five times - they just don't have anyone to bring off the bench to start a fire with good outside shooting. Couple that with Duke's excruciatingly slow pace, hich Clemson was more than happy to play into, and a decent-sized lead in the first half can become insurmountable with ten minutes to play in the second. The latter won't be something that happens against Carolina, as the Heels will push the tempo no matter the score, but it goes to show that careful handing of the ball and a strong inside game (Only Terrence Oglesby shot from the perimeter with any regularity or success) can flummox the Blue Devils.
The good news is, that's a similar style of play to Carolina's wheelhouse, provided they don't fumble the ball in the backcourt trying to run a half-set offense. And also, UNC has manhandled the Tigers by 24, which means by the transitive property, UNC shoud beat Duke by 51 points. That's attainable, right?
(By the by, expect Duke to crush Miami this weekend and Wake to easily handle Clemson at home in the final game of the season. Duke is ideally built to handle Miami's perimeter shooting, turnover-prone team, and at Wake should easily stomp the big men of the Tigers. But for Wednesday at least, the stars aligned and it was a very good day to be a Tar Heel.