ACC Team Previews: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Posted by ARowe on October 22nd, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams. Today’s victim: the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest basketball took a step back last season under third-year coach Jeff Bzdelik. While Wake was on top of the basketball world in January 2009 (undefeated and ranked #1), the Demon Deacons’ program has fallen on hard times ever since. From October 2010 to April 2012, Tony Woods, J.T. Terrell, Ty Walker, Ari Stewart, Carson Desrosiers, Anthony Fields, Tony Chennault and Melvin Tabb all left the school, either by choice or by force. As a result, the Deacs have won only five ACC games since March 7, 2010. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a phrase that comes to mind.

This is Very Much a Make or Break Season For Jeff Bzdelik (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Bzdelik certainly has his detractors. And his record since arriving in Winston-Salem speaks for itself. When a program has as rich of a basketball history (at least over the last three decades) as Wake Forest does, losing records and mass exoduses of players over a two-year period will not be tolerated very long at all. Although athletic director Ron Wellman has put his support thoroughly behind Bzdelik at some point he has to look out for his own job. Fortunately for both of them, help is on the way.

Newcomers

“Baby Deacs” is the name of the freshman class entering Winston-Salem this year to try and turn this program around. Madison Jones, Tyler Cavanaugh, Aaron Rountree, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Arnaud William Adala Moto, Devin Thomas and Andre Washington make up the seven freshmen expected to get Wake Forest basketball back to their winning ways. The class was ranked #21 in the country by ESPN and #23 by Scout.com.

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ACC M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 22nd, 2012

  1. Tallahassee Democrat: Veterans Ian Miller and Michael Snaer are really excited about the freshmen joining the team this season. Snaer specifically lauded Aaron Thomas, Devon Bookert and Montay Brandon as potential stars on this year’s team. Thomas has Snaer’s “can’t stop me” attitude which should make him an elite scorer, but Bookert may hold the key for Florida State making the next step with his ball-handling skills. The biggest issue with the last few Seminole teams has been offense, and most of the team’s offensive woes come from turning the ball over too frequently. If Bookert can run the offense and reduce the team’s turnover rate, look out.
  2. Associated Press (via Winston-Salem Journal): Apparently Reggie Johnson‘s dieting has started to work. The Miami big man started the season two years ago at a whopping 330 pounds and reportedly is now down to 290. He’s still got a ways to go, but believes his diet is helping. If he can play superstar minutes and can run the floor better, Johnson will make a run at becoming the ACC’s best big man. He’s already probably the league’s most polished returning half-court post player, but his weight keeps him from being elite. That said, take Johnson’s words with a grain of salt. It’s a little weird he pointed to his weight two years ago instead of last year (albeit when he was rehabbing a knee injury).
  3. Greensboro News-Record: David Morrison went to Duke’s Operation Basketball and got some interesting notes. First, Coach K is looking for major increases in offensive production from Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry this year. Krzyzewski wants this team’s offense to be less balanced, though Rasheed Sulaimon will definitely be an offensive factor if he lives up to his hype. Morrison also talked with Plumlee about Krzyzewski’s reaction to the Blue Devils’ less-that-stellar finish last season.
  4. Blogger So Dear: Most schools taking international trips already finished them, but Jeff Bzdelik and his young Demon Deacon team headed to Canada and won two exhibition games against Brock University and Ryerson University, 84-79 and 88-80, respectively. CJ Harris and Tyler Cavanaugh led the way for Wake Forest against Brock, scoring 16 points apiece in the win (Harris also added five assists and Cavanaugh grabbed nine rebounds). Saturday Travis McKie starred, finishing with 26 points. Freshmen Cody Miller-McIntyre and Cavanaugh also scored in double figures.
  5. CBSSports.com: Snaer isn’t the only one talking some trash this offseason. Dexter Strickland isn’t too worried about NC State being picked first in the ACC.

    “They talk those guys up every single year and we beat them every single year [...] They are the least of our worries. Beat us one year and then they can talk smack. Until then, you can’t put them in the mix.”

    He also felt pretty strongly about the NCAA Tournament outcome if North Carolina hadn’t been hampered by injuries.

    “I’ll be honest. If nobody got hurt, you might as well have given us the trophy. Nobody had the ability to stop us.”

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ACC Summer Recess: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Posted by KCarpenter on July 18th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Wake Forest.

Where They Stand Now

Bzdelik Enters Year Three of a Rebuild at Wake

It’s a rare thing when you can be tied for last place in the conference and still be hailed for taking a big step forward. Wake Forest went 4-12 in in league play, part of the four-way tie at the bottom, yet last season can’t be rated all that poorly. When you go from 1-15 to 4-12, it’s certainly a nice step forward, but it’s also a clear sign that you are being graded on a curve. Wake Forest hoops got a lot better last season, but make no mistake: This team is still far from good.

What’s the best way to describe the state of this program? The highlight of the Demon Deacons’ last season is debatable: It’s either a three-point home win over Virginia Tech (a team that finished below WFU in the conference standings) or a one-point home win over Yale (who had a great year… for Yale). There wasn’t a lot to cheer about this season, but the step away from the soul-crushing precipice of the 2011-12 season is enough to chalk up last year as an incredibly mild success.

Outside of team highlights, the past season was also a remarkable showcase for C.J. Harris, who had a terrific year shooting the ball from distance. Harris combined with Travis McKie formed one of the deadliest scoring tandems in the conference.  Of course, it ended up not mattering too much, but it was one sign of genuine hope for a program that has fallen on lean times.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 23rd, 2012

  1. Tampa Bay Times: It looks like Leonard Hamilton‘s reported “lobbying” has stirred up the Florida State athletic department’s checkbook. Currently Hamilton makes $1.5 million a year plus incentives (for instance this year he earned an extra $175,000 for winning the ACC Tournament and being named ACC Coach of the Year). He definitely deserves the raise. Since he arrived in Tallahassee, Hamilton has made a Seminole program with very few historical highs relevant. While Florida State’s early NCAA tournament departure was unfortunate, the team’s continued success will only enhance his ability to recruit.
  2. Blogger So Dear: It sounds like major unrest is brewing over at Wake Forest. Days after Tony Chennault announced his transfer, rumors are swirling that Carson Desrosiers (which sources confirmed to Blogger So Dear) and Anthony Fields (unconfirmed, along with an even more distressing rumor that Travis McKie may be asking to transfer too) want out of Winston-Salem too. We will definitely keep everything updated, but suffice to say the Demon Deacons’ roster would be decimated if those three leave. If you’re keeping score at home, these three potential transfers would make nine players to transfer or depart (for reasons other than graduation) under Jeff Bzdelik’s tenure.
  3. ESPN Chicago: This probably isn’t super surprising, but longtime Duke assistant Chris Collins is interested in a head coaching gig, and Illinois would be on “the right fit” list. Because of Collins’ ties with Chicago–his dad coached the Bulls, he grew up there, and he currently recruits there for Duke–rumors about the vacancy have swirled since Bruce Weber left. Obviously, if Collins is offered the job (he reportedly hasn’t been contacted yet, but I would be surprised if the Illini hadn’t at least put out feelers to his agent), I think he will take it. That’s a tough first head coaching job though, with some serious expectations.
  4. Durham Herald-Sun: Speaking of Duke and not surprises, Mason Plumlee is looking into possibly entering this year’s NBA Draft. Currently he’s gathering information to get an idea on where he would go, and how much an extra year could help or hurt him. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express seems optimistic about Plumlee’s NBA future, though noted that coming back for his senior season wouldn’t hurt either.
  5. Hampton Roads Daily-Press: One big knock on Virginia this year was the team’s dearth of quality wins. Obviously, the Cavaliers couldn’t control their conference draw, but a team’s nonconference schedule is one that comes up on Selection Sunday (just ask Seth Greenberg). Tony Bennett pointed out that the nonconference strength of schedule wasn’t helped by losing to TCU (which kept Virginia from playing Marquette). But Bennett is looking at adding some meat to next year’s schedule, starting with a home-and-home series with Tennessee.

EXTRA: If you’re not watching Bomani & Jones it’s easily worth the ten minutes a week. Where else are you going to get interviews with Julius Hodge and Joe in Raleigh (an avid Duke fan and notorious sports talk show caller)?

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ACC Tournament: Three Thoughts from Wake Forest – Maryland

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2012

In the end it was a dominant win by Maryland. Jeff Bzdelik pulled his starters at the under-four media timeout (to be fair, Nikita Mescheriakov and Tony Chennault had already fouled out by that point).

  • Starting with Wake Forest, this game didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. The Demon Deacons played Maryland tough the first 15 minutes and fell apart. After leading 26-21, Maryland went on a 35-9 run including the beginning of the second half. The biggest issue all afternoon for Jeff Bzdelik’s squad was production from players not named Mescheriakov, CJ Harris and Travis McKie. Those three scored 52 of Wake Forest’s 60 points (it would’ve been more had Bzdelik left them in to the bitter end). Chennault and Carson Desrosiers combined to go 1-13 from the field. That won’t cut it coming from starters. Period.
  • On Maryland’s end, it’s really tough to judge how impressive the Terrapins were against Wake Forest. There’s no argument that they didn’t dominate the game, but Wake Forest also lost all of its will to win after giving up its five-point lead in dramatic fashion down the stretch in the first half. The best news from Mark Turgeon’s standpoint is that he got to rest his thin line-up for much of the second half, which will keep the teams’ collective legs fresh for a game tomorrow against North Carolina.
  • In contrast to Wake Forest’s starters, Maryland’s combined to go 25-43 from the field (58%) thanks to one of Nick Faust‘s best games of the year (19 points on ten shots) and a very strong game from James Padgett (5-6 from the field). This Maryland team could make North Carolina work tomorrow if Faust and Padgett can combine for more points than Terrell Stoglin.
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ACC Season Wrap-Up and Tournament Preview

Posted by mpatton on March 8th, 2012

First, here’s a quick preview of the ACC Tournament. You can find the rest of the power rankings after the jump.
The two Thursday games you should keep a close eye on are Clemson – Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest – Maryland. I trust Miami and NC State will have no trouble putting away their opponents, though Georgia Tech has played a couple of very good games this year.
While North Carolina is the prohibitive favorite, I think Florida State probably has the second best chance. Hear me out: Duke is playing without Ryan Kelly, which means the Plumlees and Hairston are it inside; factor in a history of ignoring the conference tournament for North Carolina combined with Kendall Marshall feeling “tired,” and I think you’ve got a recipe for a team not from North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament for the first time since Maryland in 2004.
I also expect strong runs from bubble teamers NC State and Miami, as both try to secure their at-large hopes with another marquee win.
  1. North Carolina (27-4, 14-2) - It’s funny how the difference between a successful season can come down to one game. Had North Carolina lost to Duke at Cameron, people would’ve pointed to the Tar Heels’ lofty preseason expectations and how they came up short. Instead, Roy Williams’ squad finally showed the world just why it was ranked so high early in the season. Kendall Marshall hit shots, the defense clicked and the game felt over by the first media timeout. Now the Tar Heels have the inside track for a one-seed, owning the head-to-head victory with Michigan State that will definitely come in handy. There are still legitimate questions about North Carolina’s intensity, but if that intensity is in the ballpark of Saturday night opponents should be scared. Don’t pencil the Tar Heels into the Final Four before seeing the ACC Tournament. This team’s worst enemy until the final weekend will be itself. One person in particular to keep you eye on is Marshall. He was snubbed from first-team All-ACC (he missed by two votes), so I expect him to come out aggressively Friday. He’s also shows recent offensive improvement, coming up with two of his best performances of the year in rivalry games against NC State and Duke. When he’s taking and hitting open looks, the Tar Heels are impossible to guard.
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The Best Scoring Wings in the ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on March 2nd, 2012

When we talk about the All-ACC First Team, conventional wisdom holds that a few things are certain. Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott are iron-clad locks. To a lesser extent, John Henson seems fairly likely to make the team as well. That leaves two guard spots. On some level, it seems insane that Kendall Marshall‘s probable third place finish in the conference books for the single-season assist record, but his lack of dominant scoring, defense, and a general unwillingness to place so many Tar Heels on the first team probably hurts Marshall’s chances. The worst thing about this is that the negatives against Marshall probably hurt most of the other point guards in the league as well. As good as Lorenzo Brown has been, if Marshall isn’t going to make the first team, Brown’s chances aren’t looking so great either. For now, let’s set aside true point guards.

How Many of This UNC Trio Will End up as ACC First Teamers? (News-Record)

So, for better or worse, the two guard spots on this team are probably going to go to a pair of dominant wing scorers. Among the candidates, listed in order by points per game, we have Terrell Stoglin, Harrison Barnes, C.J. Harris, Travis McKie, Erick Green, Austin Rivers, Michael Snaer, and Seth Curry. So how do we pick two? These are individual awards, so I don’t feel particularly obligated to award team success, though I know that typically the voters for these honors use that criterion rather heavily. For now though, let’s pretend that Stoglin, Harris, McKie, and Green all have an equal shot.

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ACC Game On: 02.28.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on February 28th, 2012

We are in the home stretch of the regular season. It would be sad if that didn’t mean that tournament play is in the air. After a high stakes weekend where Miami made its case for the big tournament while Virginia and North Carolina State faltered at a critical moment, this week kicks off with a fairly lopsided matchup.

The Infernal Showdown

  • #7 Duke at Wake Forest at 9:00 PM on ESPNU

The last true road game of the season for Duke, the Blue Devils need to win this game to contend for a #1 seed. Duke should be more than up for the task, but they come into Winston Salem playing a Wake Forest team that has nothing to lose. After last year’s miserable season, the Demon Deacon’s forward progress is admirable, but when push comes to shove, this is a team that has only won four conference games. After a red hot start, Travis McKie has cooled down. Actually, outside of the still-incandescent C. J. Harris, the whole team has cooled off. With their season heading nowhere fast, Wake Forest doesn’t have much to do outside of ruin Duke’s day and make Nikita Mescheriakov and Ty Walker‘s Senior Night memorable. With the worst defense in the league and one of the worst offenses, Wake Forest would need an exceptional game (marked by frequent trips to the line, effective perimeter defense, and a lot of luck) to surprise the Devils. Still, it’s the last week of the regular season and strange things happen when teams play for pride.

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ACC Game On: 2.15.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on February 15th, 2012

Winning on the road in the ACC will always be difficult as Virginia discovered at Clemson last night. It’s tempting to paint this win as a big upset and while it’s certainly a meaningful win for the Tigers, let’s not forget that Clemson was favored heading into the match-up. It’s a good win, but not particularly surprising. So in that same vein, tonight, we have two tough road tests on the schedule.

The Headliners

  • #7 North Carolina at Miami at 8:00 PM on ESPN

Miami, with the big win against Duke and solid in-conference performance, has played its way onto the bubble. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes are still very much a marginal team when it comes to the Big Dance. Miami needs to either win tonight against North Carolina or beat Florida State in the rematch of last weekend’s game, and probably needs to do both to warrant serious tournament consideration. Beating North Carolina is a tall order, but the results of the teams’ last meeting offers some encouragement for the Hurricanes. The 17-point win in the ACC conference opener happened before the integration of Shane Larkin into the Miami starting line up and before North Carolina’s loss of Dexter Strickland. Miami now starts an ultra-quick three guard line-up that includes Larkin, who managed six steals in 24 minutes last meeting, while North Carolina now lacks a speedy perimeter defender. Duke exposed North Carolina’s susceptibility to a well-timed three-point barrage and Miami is better positioned to exploit that than ever. Also worth mentioning is the stellar job that the Hurricanes did in limiting the effectiveness of Harrison Barnes who went 2-of-12 in the previous face-off. Miami has these advantages and the homecourt and have a real chance at upsetting the Tar Heels. Yet, when push comes to shove, North Carolina still has the clear edge. What the Tar Heels lack in perimeter speed they make up for with size and length. While the duo of Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji has been tough to defend, Tyler Zeller and John Henson match up well. Henson can be effective against Kadji’s inside-out game and Zeller has the offensive savvy to get Johnson into foul trouble early.

The Opening Act

  • Georgia Tech at Wake Forest at 7:30 PM on ESPN3.com

If Boston College didn’t exist, these two teams would each only have a single conference win. Still, one of these teams will leave this game the winner and despite Wake Forest’s home court advantage, I think Georgia Tech has the edge in this game because of their superior rebounding. Wake Forest can offset most of their disadvantages through a big night from Travis McKie and C.J. Harris, but even then, it’s not clear if the Demon Deacons can get enough significant contributions from the rest of the team to walk away with the win. In any case, this game should be closely contested even if aesthetically unpleasant.

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ACC Game On: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on January 26th, 2012

Well, Maryland managed to defend the honor of newly-christened Gary Williams Court for about 30 minutes before succumbing to the temptations of lousy help defense. Beating the Terps doesn’t look like a great win on paper, but it’s a great win for a Duke team that still seems occasionally unsure of their own identity. Virginia Tech lost to Brigham Young thanks to poor offensive execution and despite a relatively strong game defensively. It was a game that came down to the last play, but the Hokies just couldn’t pull it out. Florida State put up a command performance in stomping Wake Forest with the wicked defense of the Seminoles holding star player Travis McKie to a pitiful 1-of-13 shooting night. Couple that with an over 50% shooting night from the field and the Florida State juggernaut looks as hot as ever.

A Cold War Goes Hot

An NC State vs. UNC Game That Means Something? It's Been a While...

  • North Carolina State at North Carolina at 7:00 PM on ESPN

In Chapel Hill, this game hasn’t meant much in the Roy Williams‘ era. The heat from a once-vicious rivalry cooled as the Wolfpack drifted further and further into irrelevance. Now, NC State fans are always hot for this game, but the recent history of this match-up has left Chapel Hill fans indifferent. But for the first time in a long while, Tar Heel fans are nervous. Quietly, Mark Gottfried has developed a powerful and versatile balanced attack. Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, C.J. Williams, and Scott Wood all have a legitimate case for being the ACC break-out players of the year (ignoring Terrell Stoglin), each making massive strides in their respective games. Meanwhile C.J. Leslie still remains an immensely talented wild card, capable of taking over a game at both ends, though his inconsistency remains an issue. They match up well with the Tar Heels, having a combination of size and speed to counter North Carolina’s usual advantages in this area. Still, North Carolina is a great team and as well as the Wolfpack matches up on the perimeter, it’s unclear if their is a frontcourt answer to the Tyler Zeller and John Henson tandem. Also, a real concern: the Wolfpack’s three-point defense has been abysmal and with Reggie Bullock getting the start alongside Harrison Barnes, an early barrage of perimeter shots could break NC State’s back early. I think this game will be close, but the Tar Heels take this one. The real intrigue for this game is how it sets the stage for what’s almost certain to be the dramatic second meeting in Raleigh.

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ACC Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 23rd, 2012

  1. Fansided (via Soaring to Glory): This is a good post for the beginning of conference play that checks in with four bloggers from around the ACC regarding a range of topics. It’s always interesting to get different perspectives from around the league. One thing I found especially interesting was that none of the bloggers took a negative tone. Boston College is having what looks like a historically bad season; the same (relatively speaking) goes for Maryland; and North Carolina was coming off a brutal loss to Florida State. But universally the authors were positive (again, relatively speaking). More than anything, I think that’s the hallmark of the ACC this year: Everyone has a chance to exceed expectations (even the Tar Heels, whose expectations are mainly focused on March).
  2. BC Interruption: I love the rapid-fire Q & A that is “The Big Finish” over at BC Interruption. I think there’s a good bit to be learned by someone just spouting off short sentences to successive questions (which, tangentially, is why I love Twitter Q & As). Even if there’s less thought behind the answers, something feels more natural or instinctual. As to the first question about the ceiling of Boston College under Steve Donahue, I think it’s impossible to know right now. Donahue needs to show the ability to recruit high-major players consistently before I’m willing to make that call. Right now each win is on house money because of low expectations, but in two or three years it should be easier to pinpoint a legitimate ceiling for the Eagles.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: Wake Forest notched another win this weekend against Boston College. It never trailed and looked dominant from time to time. Probably the most impressive player was Ty Walker, who somehow only got credited with five blocks (seriously, I thought he had at least seven). Walker has been a non-factor most of his career, but looks like a totally new player this season. The most dominant and outstanding player on the floor was Travis McKie. McKie can play. Unfortunately, his terrific game underscored just how much more talented Wake Forest is than Boston College. And while the game never felt in doubt, several Wake Forest bloggers are not pleased with the direction of the program.
  4. Orlando Sentinel: Florida State reestablished itself as the third-best team in the conference (and very possibly the second) with its win at Duke this weekend. I’m back on the bandwagon (which, to be fair, I was driving in the preseason) after a short respite thanks to a 10-point half against Princeton and a 20-point beatdown to Clemson. I think Leonard Hamilton said it best, talking to a fan who thanked him for the opportunity to rush the court against North Carolina: “But we won’t have to rush the court anymore. It’s expected. Those days are over.” And if they continue to put up over 70 points a game, I guarantee the Seminoles will be nearly impossible to beat.
  5. Washington Post: Speaking of ACC chaos, Virginia Tech managed to halt its conference winless streak with a win at Virginia on Sunday. The bottom line is that Virginia couldn’t score enough to get it done. They shot horrendously, which kept the Hokies in it, and allowed Dorenzo Hudson to knock down a dagger three to close out the Cavaliers. The game said a lot, especially about Virginia Tech, which finally showed the toughness it will need going forward to win games in the conference. The game also raised some questions about Tony Bennett’s squad, which will have to bounce back this week to maintain their upper position in the conference.
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ACC Game On: 01.11.12

Posted by KCarpenter on January 11th, 2012

Some semblance of order prevailed Tuesday night as Florida State managed a close win against Virginia Tech and North Carolina lodged a quietly scary win against Miami. Bernard James, the old man of the ACC, posted an 18-point, 15-rebound game (nine offensive rebounds) and Ian Miller offered the sufficient guard scoring (15 points) that the Seminoles had lacked in the early going. Virginia Tech simply couldn’t score at a strong enough clip against the defensive-minded Seminoles, managing a field goal percentage of only 30.5%. This is how we expected Florida State would win games, and it’s fun to see a team pull off a victory like this while still turning the ball over 19 times in a relatively slow-paced game. Did I say fun? I meant weird, but oddly gratifying.

Old Man Bernard James Had A Monster Game In The Victory Over Virginia Tech

Meanwhile, North Carolina’s convincing victory against Miami was scarier than you might expect. The Tar Heels draw a lot of offensive firepower from their triumvirate of big, athletic, sharp-shooting wings. Last night, Harrison Barnes went 2-of-12, Reggie Bullock went 2-of-6, and P.J. Hairston went 1-of-6. It was a 17-point win for UNC and the Hurricanes shot 41.8%. The ability to accomplish a high margin win without shut-down defense, hot shooting, or scoring from three of your best offensive players is what makes North Carolina such a dangerous team. Totally crushing an opponent in every facet of the game will always be impressive, but soundly beating a team despite lots of things going wrong? Just as remarkable.

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