You had to know it was coming: Dick Vitale was there, the Baptist Deacon was riding a motorcycle, and Mike Patrick had just finished putting the garnet dye on his hair. Everyone was ready for a great game between the two best teams in the ACC—Duke and Wake Forest.
Oh, we know Va Tech put Wake down last week but the Deacons are still a prime cut of beef in the ACC.
They were most impressive in breaking Brigham Young's 53-game homecourt winning streak earlier this month. That will be talked about in the Bee Hive State for years to come.
But this game was this week's No. 1 team in the country versus last week's No. 1 in the country. Wake wanted this one more than breaking BYU's 53-game winning streak. This is the ACC showdown of the year. And the whole basketball world was watching.
The world watched in awe as the game went down to the final second of play when the Deacons benefited from a traveling call on Gerald Henderson when he was thrown down to the floor by Al-Farouq Aminu, one of Wake Forest's plethora of big men.
For all the Deacon height, little Duke outrebounded the giants of Wake Forest, 47-43. Another tribute to the toughness of this year's Blue Devil team, which comes to fight.
Late in the second half Duke trailed 61-48, and then outscored Wake 20-7 down the stretch to tie it up going into the last two seconds.
Once again, the toughness and gritty determination of a Blue Devil team that is ready to fight.
The already legendary Jeff Teague of the Deacs, the best backcourt player in the country, was held to 11 points—half of his scoring average—by the gritty and determined Blue Devil defense—further testimony to the Blue Devils being ready to fight this year.
Fight on the road. Fight on the boards. Fight on the floor.
In the last 10 minutes, Wake tightened up like a 14-year-old boy asking out his first date and the Blue Devil defense put the clamps on a vaunted Deacon offense, calmly regaining their footing.
With the Deacon fans gasping in horror, the old saying reared its ugly head in Winston-Salem: Duke never dies.
Duke lost 70-68, but there will be another meeting between these two down the road, probably for the ACC Championship. Maybe for the national championship.
This is just the appetizer, played at Wake Forest's place.
I recognize UConn, Oklahoma, Louisville, Pittsburgh, as well as Wake, are all great teams with excellent defensive length, quick feet, and tremendous perimeter defense that could make it difficult for Duke to penetrate.
But, after watching the game in Winston-Salem tonight, I like Duke's chances more than ever. The Blue Devils lost the game but proved the point that they are the toughest team to beat in this country.
So, the battle for No. 1 continues—UConn will have their say, Oklahoma will claim their piece of the pie, and Wake Forest will make the strongest case for top spot in this week's poll.
Give the Devils their due, and put the Deacons where they belong—back to No. 1 for the rest of this week. Next week, we'll have a new number one. And then another, and another.