Drive and Dish has been paying close attention to Wake Forest all season long. The reasons for our are new-found Wake Forest interest are obvious: the Demon Deacons have undergone a basketball renaissance in 2008/09 which resulted in their ascension to the No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll (although it was a brief stay at No. 1), they've bounced back from the sudden death (in 2007) of head coach Skip Prosser to rally around new head coach Dino Gaudio, and -- for some reason -- Drive and Dish gets a lot of traffic from Wake Forest fans.
However, despite our renewed interest in Wake Forest and the apparent popularity of a few Wake Forest-related Drive and Dish posts, this blog has never had a tangible connection to Wake Forest University. To be sure, we've got no shortage of friends who either currently attend, or alumni of, Big Ten schools. And we've spent plenty of time on Big Ten campuses. The same goes for most of the Big 12 and many of the Big East and Pac-10 schools. What's more, we've got several relatives and friends who are alums of ACC schools. And we're well acquainted with Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Durham, Clemson, Charlottesville, Tallahassee and Miami. But to date, we've never set foot on the Wake Forest campus (or even in Winston-Salem, North Carolina).
So we're pleased to welcome guest blogger Izzy to Drive and Dish. Izzy is a Wake Forest student -- class of 2009 -- from Los Angeles, CA, and he maintains the fine NBA blog Dishing Dimes (he's also appeared on ESPN to discuss Wake Forest football and to represent Wake Forest in a debate with students from Duke). Izzy brings to Drive and Dish his insider's view of life at Wake Forest in the year of Wake's basketball rebirth:
What is it like to be a Student at Wake Forest?
Since my time at Wake Forest we have been a football school. Crazy, I know. Wake Forest has traditionally been thought of as a basketball school. In reality, that is what I cling to hailing from the Southern California. People ask, “Where is Wake Forest?” I explain that it is a school in North Carolina, and drop the names Tim Duncan and Chris Paul, sometimes to no avail. Aside from the academics, I don’t tell those people that Wake Forest is the 2nd smallest Division 1 School (behind Rice University) with only a bit over 4,000 undergraduates. I don’t tell those people that Wake Forest has beaten the mighty Duke Blue Devils two years in a row. I don’t tell them that we have been to the NCAA tournament 20 times in our school history and had 16 straight postseason appearances (the most in ACC history). No. I don’t tell them any of that because frankly, I don’t care. I’ve gotten used to the underdog label that Wake Forest is commonly ascribed. I’ve gotten used to being the forgotten nationally ranked university. We are the forgotten North Carolina school after Duke, Carolina, and NC State.
We like to think that Duke is our rival, but they have Carolina. That is how bad it has gotten over here. We have no defined rival. We play who we play. No one has any strong opinion about Wake Forest. We are the black sheep of the ACC. Seldom does anyone think of Wake Forest when they think of the ACC. In all honesty, if I didn’t go to Wake, I wouldn’t either. The two biggest programs in the country are in ACC country. Their shadows are seen in Terapin country all the way down to the University of Miami campus lake.
How do we get noticed? We rise to #1 in the country for the first time since Chris Paul’s tenure here in 2005. We beat North Carolina. We beat Duke. We beat Clemson. We go 16-0. We have one of the most underrated student sections in the country. A student section that prides itself on wearing the most obnoxious tie-die shirts, coming up with new chants, and harassing every away team that comes into Joel Coliseum. Simply put, Wake Forest sports are a way of life around here. We are the forgotten middle child of the ACC. We need to be heard every time we play.
With all that said, hopes are high around campus. We have been taken, once again, on the roller coaster ride of Wake Forest basketball. With three NBA caliber players in Jeff Teague, James Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu, and with the tallest front line in the country, we scratch our heads when we lose. We haven’t lost to a ranked opponent yet this season. Every loss we have had has been in the conference. Yeah, you could say that it is just the instability of the ACC, but we truly believe that we can play with anyone in the country.
In all honesty, I think the student body is scared. We are scared that the team won’t get the benefit of the doubt when it comes tournament time. We know that Duke can lose to an unranked team and probably move up in the rankings. We know that when we lose to an unranked team it is death. We play with a chip on our shoulder. As of me writing this, we dismantled Georgia Tech, a team that we lost to earlier this season. We know what we need to do to be successful.
We have a couple of x-factors on our team, Chas MacFarlane and LD Williams. LD Williams is a good perimeter defender, but he is inconsistent on the offensive end. Chas MacFarlane obviously gives us good height down low, but he is an emotional player. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I think that if he channeled his emotions in the right way, we can be a successful team. I know that authors on this site have criticized Wake’s lack of maturity, and in all honesty, that is true. We are an immature team, but a Final Four appearance is not out of the question if we are able to find our identity, and work out the kinks in our game. Ish Smith is developing as a player. I have publicly questioned both Smith and Teague’s decision making, and they have both improved their decision making. The team has a lot of work to do in order to get to the Final Four level. March is a crazy month. So many factors play into the tournament. Sitting here and trying to dissect every bit of that is not going to give us a better picture. It is just my opinion. All we know is that college basketball has seen every single #1 team fall this season. It will make for a great tournament. Until then, all I can say and hope for it, Go Deacs!
Author of dishingdimes.blogspot.com