TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume VIII, no. LXIII - March 17, 2005
Welcome to this edition of the eighth (yes, eighth - - it's gotten absolutely ridiculous now and can almost be measured in geologic time) season of Two Dukies Pick the ACC. Rob and Matt invite you to sit back, waste everyone's time by telling a group of New York City firefighters that they can't wear green berets at the St. Patrick's Day parade, vow to wipe the smile of Robert Blake's face, and rest assured that no one will vow to wipe any smile off your face after you read this offering.
The TWO DUKIES name and material are, for some outrageous reason, affiliated with http://www.dukies.com, and for even more abstruse motivations, copyright 2005 Rigel Enterprises, Ltd. All rights reserved, sort of like a table at an inexplicably popular trend restaurant with obnoxious servers and tiny portions.
Matt's comments in blue.
Rob Mac K's picks in green.
Guest Dukie Al White's comments in red.
CHATTANOOGA (20-10, 10-6 Southern North) (15W) @ #5 WAKE FOREST (26-5, 13-3) (2W)
I filled out all of my brackets last night; this year, I entered a family contest, submitting four entries, a work-related contest (one entry), and three miscellaneous contests, including one run by CSTV, the college sports website and (I guess) television network, one run by the Minneapolis paper (I'm on the mailing list for some reason), and one run by a bunch of Iowa fans from the Hawkeyes' listserv, which I've been a member of for something like eight years now. One entry apiece for the last three makes eight brackets in all, which I thought was about right. I unfortunately picked Iowa over Cincinnati on every single one, and I also picked UTEP to beat Utah, which they very nearly did, on most of them. Ah, well. I did, at least, get several scores with UWM over Alabama - - that was the most likely 5/12 upset I could detect in this year's field, and as we all know, a 5/12 "shocker" isn't really so shocking aymore. In fact, it's de rigueur.
Anyway, it escaped my attention in all of the excitement that Chattanooga, which, like a lot of schools, recently dropped the state from which it hails from its "sports name" in an effort to sound less directional (see also, e.g., the University of North Carolina at Charlotte), is a really trendy upset pick tonight.
Hm. In researching the question a bit, it turns out that there is actually some basis for this opinion. In 1997, the last time they won the SoCo and were in the NCAAs, the Mocs beat Georgia and (karma hint, karma hint) Illinois to reach the Sweet Sixteen, and Wake has, of course, really struggled with first-rounders in recent seasons.
Then you have the fact that UTC ranked second in the country, behind Connecticut, in rebounding margin this season. Now, any "margin" statistic in the NCAAs is always dependent on the strength of your opponents, but clearly, the Mocs can clean the glass better than your average Paris squeegeeman. The Chatters are also 15-1 when scoring more than 70 points in a game this season, and, boy are they likely to do so against this particular opponent.
Having observed the ACC all season, some things really stand out. First, barring a total meltdown, Georgia Tech will go really far because their defense is so good. I believe and hope that the same is true of Duke. On the other side of the coin, the Deacs and the Tools are in for a really serious Wake-up call if they don't improve their defense in the Tournament; I'm not even sure that, had Chris Paul not been so on the ball in the regular season finale, his presence would have made a difference against North Carolina State in Washington. The Deacs' D was just that bad.
Here's the key difference between Wake and the Tools, however: the Tools' bracket is, shockingly, pretty loaded. Wake's is, by contrast, not. I was seriously trying hard not to run Wake out of every single one of my eight brackets, and I was having some real difficulty doing it - - I finally sent Washington to St. Louis out of one West projection (I really don't completely buy into this naming the regions by cities crap, because the point of it has never been explained to me), and Gonzaga in another. In rationalizing each non-Wake pick, I surmised that Prosser's utter failure to instill a defensive mindset in his troops this year would be the Demon Deacons' undoing. I think it will be, but it might take until the Final Four for it to happen, given the weakness of the West Region.
I mean, do you think that Wake stands any chance of losing to either Creighton or West Virginia? I don't. If the Deacons can avoid any blues against the Mocs, they look pretty good for the Sweet Sixteen to me. Heck, the toughest potential opponent for them in the West Region might well be Georgia Tech.
I can see the Mocs, excellently coached by rookie John Shulman, who took over after Lebo bolted for Auburn (and didn't make any kind of postseason play with a 14-17 record, by the bye), making this a contest, but you have to believe that Wake can repel another assault from a team named pursuant to podiatric terminology, much as they did, well, only once so far this season. Or maybe a Moc is a kind of snake? Oh, I'm kidding; the mockingbird is actually Tennessee's state bird - - but the school, seeking to distance itself preposterously from the real origin of the nickname (an American Indian tribe - - sigh), actually did use a logo of a shoe for several seasons before adopting their current, railroadocentric graphics.
Let's see how the Mocs, their mascot Scrappy (no, I'm not making this up), and their 65.5 ppg scoring defense do against Saint Paul and the Ballpunchers.
Wake Forest 91, Chattanooga 83.
Wake Forest 89, Chattanooga 81.
Now it's time to see if Wake, picked by many as the number one team in the land before the season started, can hit the switch and impress in the tourney.
It has become a cliche that guard play is crucial in the NCAA Tournament. Wake, with one of the best offensive backcourts in the country, hopes the cliche proves correct, at least from an offensive standpoint. One would think that punch guard Chris Paul, who is not just a sharp ball-handler but has the whole package, should have gotten the thuggery out of his system so he can help his teammates raise their level of play. It's a safe bet Skip Prosser has told Paul to stop his Demon Dorkin' and set a good example for his teammates. We'll see. Whatever happens, it is doubtful that Chrissy will want to put up any more with the college game's unfair suspensions and whatever else has bugged him so much this season. Here's hoping he tries to punch down on Ben Wallace next year.
A typical Wake performance should be enough to get past the Choo-Choos with little difficulty. While the Mocs have, in 6-9 senior Mindaugas Katelynas, a better Baltostiff than Vytas Danneloozer, they will have trouble matching the Demented Disciples in any other respect.
After this game, Wake's idea of defense -- score 100 and hope the opponent can't quite match it -- had better change or they will likely be a very early exit for a 2 seed.
Wake Forest 92, Chattanooga 80.
Last (Two) Edition(s): Rob 3-1 (1.000) Matt 3-1 (1.000) Guest 0-0 (1.000) This Season: Rob 86-26 (0.768) Matt 86-26 (0.768) Guests 37-16 (0.698) TD in Guest Editions: 84-22 (0.792)