Friday, March 18, 2005

Wake Beats Mocs, Moves on to NCAA Second Round

Was it the rim, the rust, Chattanooga's defense, or just a poor performance by the Deacs? Wake Forest fans struggled to find an explanation for a dismal first half that left Wake down 27-24 at halftime. Four theories emerged: (1) one of the rims at the CSU Convention Center appeared (and sounded) to be loose, and spit out any shot that the Deacs sent its way in the first half; (2) Wake hadn't played since Friday, the longest off stretch since early January, so they needed the first half to work out the rust; (3) maybe Chattanooga's not that bad; and (4) Wake continues to struggle on offense.

Regardless of one's chosen theory, Wake played abysmally in the half, shooting 28 percent from the field to find themselves down by 3 at the break, just like the other high seeds playing in the 7:00 time slot (#2 Wake, #3 Arizona, #3 Gonzaga, and #8 Texas were all down at the half at around 8:15 PM). In the second half, however, shooting on the "good rim", Wake connected on well over 50% of its shots from the field. After a 3-point play by Mindaugas Katelynas of the Mocs put them up 38-35, Wake turned on its long range shooting, as three-pointers by Chris Paul, Trent Strickland, and Taron Downey sparked a 35-16 run to end the game.

Wake will face 7th-seeded West Virginia, a winner over Creighton, at 8 PM on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Sweet 16.

Points - Paul 20, Gray 14
Rebounds - Levy 6, Paul 6
Assists - Paul 5, Downey 4

Alphonso Pugh - 13 pts., 6 rebs.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Wake Heads to Cleveland for NCAAs

The Chris Paul suspension proved to be more harmful than Wake fans originally thought, as Wake's loss to NC State plus conference tournament championship victories by Duke and Washington cost Wake Forest the #1 seed that it had held all season long.

Instead, Wake will head to Cleveland on Thursday and Saturday as the #2 seed in the Albuquerque regional to face 15th-seeded Chattanooga. A Deacon victory would match them up with either #7 West Virginia or #10 Creighton, and possible matchups loom with #3 Gonzaga, #4 Louisville, #5 Georgia Tech, or #1 Washington. (By the way, the possible second round game between GT and Louisville is one of the most intriguing matchups of the entire tournament, in what should be an amazing battle.)

Several ESPN analysts picked Wake to make it to the Final Four, with a couple sending us all the way to the championship game. Any thoughts or comments about Wake's seed and possible tournament chances?

Saturday, March 12, 2005

ACC Tournament Game Report

As soon as Ilian Evtimov's attempted alley-oop (soccer throw-in style) fell into the net for a 3-pointer, many Wake fans knew that it was not to be. Evtimov's hot hand, Julius Hodge's personal quest for revenge against Wake, and a lack of Chris Paul combined to bounce Wake Forest from the ACC Quarterfinals on Friday.

NC State started off hot, but slowed down as Wake came back from a couple of first half deficits to tie the game at the half, 38-38. However, a stretch at the beginning of the first half in which several Wake turnovers led to easy layups and dunks by Cameron Bennerman and Andrew Brackman of the Wolfpack sealed the result. A 10-0 run by the Pack made it 51-44, and Wake would never get closer than 5 points the rest of the way, as NC State sunk its free throws to extend the final margin to 16.

Now, the Deacs are left to watch and wait as some combination of Illinois, UNC, Kentucky, Duke, Wake Forest, and Louisville will make up the 4 #1 seeds on Selection Sunday.

Points - Gray 17, Williams 17
Rebounds - Williams 8, Danelius 6
Assists - Downey 4, Gray 4

Julius Hodge - 22 points, 8 rebounds

Monday, March 07, 2005

ACC Tournament Bracket Set

With the regular season over, the ACC Tournament seeds have been set in stone.

The tournament schedule and bracket can be seen here.

7th seeded NC State will take on the #10 seed, Florida State, at 2:00 on Thursday, March 10. The winner will face 2nd seeded Wake at 7 PM on Friday, March 11 (ESPN2). Should Wake win, it will face either the 3rd, 6th, or 11th seeded team on Saturday 3/12 at 3:30 PM (ESPN). The tournament final will be Sunday, March 13 at 1 PM, also on ESPN.

(I hope to be able to post tournament reports, if I can get the wireless to work where I'm staying in the Washington area.)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Back And Ready For Washington, D.C.

I'll start by apologizing profusely for the 2-week-long gap in posts. It's been a hectic, work-filled couple of weeks, although not entirely stressful, thanks to wins over Longwood, UVA, Georgia Tech, and now NC State.

Recaps of the Longwood, UVA, Georgia Tech, and NC State games can be seen through these links.

As the Deacs walked into the RBC Center for their pregame shootaround Sunday, their ACC fate was already decided thanks to UNC's come from behind 75-73 win over Duke. As a result, UNC solidified their regular season league championship, making Wake the automatic #2 seed and Duke #3 in the conference tournament. However, both the Deacs and the Wolfpack still had plenty to play for. For NC State, a win would almost surely secure an NCAA tournament berth. Wake could also help themselves, as a win would go a long way towards earning a #1 seed in the Dance, especially with #1 Illinois, #3 Kentucky, #6 Duke, #7 Kansas, #8 Oklahoma St. and #10 Washington all losing over the weekend.

Wake started out well, jumping to a 16-9 lead. But Ilian Evtimov kept the Pack in the game, shooting 4/5 from the field in the same period that the rest of his team went 4/13. Several missed free throws, however, kept NC State down by 8 at halftime. The game was chippy, with Chris Paul giving Julius Hodge a tap to the groin that was promptly followed by a Hodge elbow to Paul's midsection, earning Hodge a technical on his senior night (making him the second ACC player to have that distinction in 3 days, as Daniel Ewing of Duke picked up a T of his own on Thursday). The Deacs could not find the hoop in the second half, having scored only 15 points in the first 19 1/2 minutes of the period. Down 53-50, however, Justin Gray stepped back and buried a 3-pointer in front of the Wake bench to tie it. After an Engin Atsur airball, Wake got the ball back with 4.2 seconds left. On a perfectly executed inbounds play, Paul inbounded to Vytas Danelius, who gave it back to Paul. Paul drove the length of the court, and tossed in a runner despite being bumped by Atsur as the buzzer sounded.

Points - Gray 15, Danelius 12
Rebounds - Williams 7, Gray 6
Assists - Paul 6, Gray 2

Ilian Evtimov - 19 pts., 6 rebs.