I'm not a Wake Forest fan. I don't expect them to win a national title. In fact, I don't even expect them to win the ACC championship. I wouldn't be surprised if parity bites them in the butt once or twice this season.
But I do know one thing—The Wake Forest Demon Deacons deserve MAD respect.
The January 11th win against UNC is only one slice of the pie. Granted, it's quite a large one, but the mountains that the Demon Deacons have climbed loom much larger.
Think back a year and a half ago...A solid program built by coach Skip Prosser was set to welcome an equally solid recruiting class. Unfortunately, the basketball world was dealt a horrific blow as Coach Prosser passed on, 56 years young.
I, personally, cannot imagine what effect that would have upon a university as well as a basketball team, but I can imagine that such a loss must have seemed devastating. Not only was Prosser a great coach, he was a great mentor. He was and will still be missed.
Had the Demon Deacons sulked through the 2007-2008 season with a heavy heart, I surely wouldn't have blamed them. But sulk they did not.
In a classy move, the administration tabbed assistant Dino Gaudio as the next head coach of Wake Forest basketball. Led by freshmen James Johnson and Jeff Teague, the Demon Deacons then fought to a respectable 17-13 mark.
They fought through hardship and came out on the winning end.
And this year has been an extension of the progression of Gaudio and his stable of talented young players.
What have they done?
--Racked up a 14-0 record
--Beaten pre-season hottie UNC
--Snapped BYU's home-court win-streak
Lest we forget, major conference teams like Michigan State and Oklahoma State have avoided Provo, Utah like the plague. They preferred to schedule a neutral-and-neutral instead of a home-and-home with BYU.
The Cougars rumbled to a win streak of over 50 games after their loss on November 18, 2005. Some of that has to do with the fact that the big boys were scared. Some of that has to do with the fact that the Marriott Center gets loud. Some of that has to do with the fact that BYU is a good team.
Props to the Wake Forest administration for manning up and coming to Utah Valley.
The crowd was raucous, the atmosphere was intense and the game was mind-blowing. Trust me, I was there.
Conditions aside, these kids escaped with a win. They didn't battle 40 minutes and lose to a great home team. They battled 40 minutes, came back from an eight-point deficit, and pulled out a win.
Sophomore phenom Jeff Teague single-handedly destroyed BYU's man to man defense, forcing the Cougars to switch to zone after only four minutes of carnage. James Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland contributed to fouling out both of BYU's credible big men, leaving the Cougars with a void in the middle of the lane in the late minutes of the game.
Hats off to those guys. Once again they battled and came out on top.
And now they've taken it to the most hyped and certainly one of the most talented teams in the country.
They battled and came out on top.
Once again, I'm not a Wake Forest fan. I wasn't happy they snuck out of the Marriott Center with a win. I know UNC would be a better defensive team with Marcus Ginyard healthy. I definitely think Wake Forest will lose a game relatively soon.
But I have to respect those that have earned my respect. And the Wake Forest Demon Deacons men's basketball team has earned my respect.
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