It is the end of January, traditionally a month of particularly nasty weather and rugged road games in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
With three months down and one more to go in the regular season, things were shaking out at the top on Thursday morning with Duke (5-1), Wake Forest (4-1), and Va Tech (4-1) in a virtual tie for first place. Oh, what a difference a couple of days can make.
That was then, this is now. Thanks to Ga Tech's win over Wake Forest on Saturday, Duke is back in the driver's seat of the ACC. Thanks Tech !
Duke had actually led the pack of teams by virtue of having one more win than Wake and the Hokies. The Hokies, on the other hand, defeated Wake in Winston Salem so they own the tie-breaker over Wake Forest. For the moment Hokies but, the moment is fading.
But now, with the losses to Ga Tech and Clemson, there are other teams snapping at Wake and Va Tech for their current 2nd place position. They have to look down, up, as well as sideways to protect themselves on the ACC ladder. Can they do it?
That I can't say, and won't deal with. That is for the writers of those programs to concern themselves with and write about. I am a Duke writer in the B/R basketball section, I produce only articles relating to Duke.
While Duke is the only ACC team unbeaten overall at home, Va Tech had been unbeaten inside the ACC at home as well, until Clemson regained their focus and dealt the Hokies a Thursday night loss.
This could make for a tricky situation for the Blue Devils on February 28 when they journey to Blacksburg.
Or will it?
Often times even a muscle-bound team like the Gobblers will succumb to the rigors of road travel and begin to drop ball games. You saw it begin versus Clemson. For all the Hokies' power, they could not rival the Tigers' speed.
The Tigers' mental collapse after losing their first game of the year, to Wake Forest, has been chronicled locally and the blame placed squarely on the shoulders of outside shooter Terrence Oglesby, according to Tiger fans and hometown journals.
This criticism is completely unfair, I spoke with the young man after the Ga Tech game and encouraged him to keep his chin up and keep firing. Did he take what I said under consideration? Time will tell.
You can't blame an outside shooter for hitting less than 50 percent. That's the nature of his game. Four out of ten is only 40 percent shooting but, if those fours are three pointers then he produced twelve points. The equivalent of shooting 60 percent from inside the circle.
If he comes back hot for the rest of the season, it could be Katie-Bar-The-Door for the ACC, as he has range from everywhere. When he is on, he is the best shooter I've seen in the ACC since J. J. Redick. But, he needs help.
When the Tigers are focused, they are a load. When they are focused. As a longtime follower of Clemson sports, are we talking about 1968, 1975, 1990 or 2009? They are a wee bit unpredictable. They'll win when you think they can't, and lose when you believe they'll win. I therefore make no prediction for the upcoming Duke at Clemson tilt.
From Duke's perspective, the Blue Devils need to win every game the rest of the year, or have the Deacons lose to the Blue Devils in Durham, because the Deacons currently own the tie breaker between the two schools. That's what makes the Ga Tech win so significant to the Blue Devils.
If Wake had not lost to Ga Tech and had won out, there would have been no stopping them from first place in the ACC tourney and probably the No. 1 seed overall in the Big Dance. You were talking about sweep city.
So there it is, the shadow lead in the ACC for Duke has turned into a working margin for the Blue Devils. But, to continue to stay all alone in first place in the ACC, they must continue to win. Which means exactly that, continuing to win.
First place is where Duke has traditionally belonged since winning the first regular season title of the ACC in 1954. This is nothing new for the Blue Devils, every player on the team realized the responsibility of upholding the great tradition when they enrolled.
The possible high point of the season for Va Tech could have passed, and Wake Forest is looking down glory road.
Perhaps the Deacons now realize what the rest of the ACC has known for a long time, that anyone can come and go in first place or as a champion when the league is down but, there is only one Duke. And Duke never dies.
It's a great year to be a Duke fan, moving back to the traditional top of the league. I am enjoying it and many other Duke fans are appreciating it as well.
We recognize that every dog has its day, and we shall enjoy it while it is our day as Duke fans. We acknowledge a variety of schools have known that special feeling in the past as well.
A special thanks to Ga Tech, we do appreciate a fine school like yours, with your clever students, fans, and superb basketball tradition putting the clamp on the vaunted Wake Forest. Good luck to the Mellow Yellow Jackets the rest of the season.