I created a post similar to this last year after the home game with Duke, and I feel that following our road win over VT, now would be a good time to make another. Earlier this season, GrumpyDeac created a fanpost talking about the state of Wake basketball, and at the end of it there was a poll asking what the team would have to do in order for you to accept Bz for another season. 21% of the voters (that is 29 of 139), including myself, voted that the Deacs would have to go .500 in the ACC. Along with that, 12% of voters said that a winning season was enough, which would be accomplished with even less than a 9-9 conference season. 25% also said that an NIT tournament was what it would take, and 8 or 9 conference wins are what some I've seen on BSD are speculating will get us there. So to total that up, 58% of the voters on GrumpyDeac's post (81 of 139) believe that a 9-9 (or less in some cases) conference season would be enough to retain coach Bzdelik, so this topic is pretty relevant to a good number of BSD members. Let's get started!
As a fan, I tend to maintain a healthy degree of optimism, and I think that we have a lot to be optimistic about. I suspect that we will get to experience the joys of winning on, at the least, 4 more occasions against Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson and Boston College. All of those games are at home, and all of them are manageable games for us. At that point we would be 7-9 with talent on our team that is without a doubt improving; Moto anyone? After this we could dispose of Bzdelik without feeling as if we had to restart again.
But if beating the 4 weakest teams to hit the Joel in the future is going to get us within two games of a 9 win conference season, then maybe we aren't that far from hitting .500. Let's take a look at what we have lined up for the next 3 games:
I consider Notre Dame to be a very winnable game for us at home, and I think that we "should" beat Georgia Tech regardless of venue (not to say that we wouldn't lose to them on the road). Syracuse isn't a team we should be ashamed to lose to, and I wouldn't be. However, after the Duke and Miami games last year, who knows what might come of it.
To remain in the conversation for a .500 season, in my opinion we must win two of those games. Two wins on this stretch would do a few things for us. First, it would put us in a really exciting spot for Wake fans at the halfway point in the conference season with a winning record of 5-4. Second, it would mean we had won 4 of our last 6 games, which would be by far the strongest stretch we have had in conference play since Bzdelik took over. Third, it would solidify us as a top-half team for the time being. However when considering that last one, it is always worth noting that 5 of the 9 games were played at home.
Our best case scenario here would obviously be to win all three. This would mean that we are 6-3, tying our record for conference wins under Bz, won 5 of 6 games, are solidly a top-half team, and the Tye-dye Nation will have stormed the court 4 times in 2 years. Either of those situations are very positive, very exciting, and very possible, even with the Cuse game being a major reach.
From this point forward, let's consider the more likely of the two hopeful scenarios and call ourselves 5-4. What do we have from here?
At NC State
Ouch. You always say ouch when you see you are traveling to Durham, but the unfortunate reality for Wake fans is that we always say ouch if we are traveling anywhere, because it typically means we are going to lose. We caught fire and for the most part beat down a bad VT team on the road, and I'm honestly extremely excited about that, but it hasn't solidified road legitimacy in the ACC yet. I personally feel that we need to win at NC State to do that. We have shown that we can beat them, and we did it in a game that we really didn't play very well in for the most part. We have to hope that breaking that losing streak on the road is what we needed to become a competitive road team. Bzdelik has told us that winning will solve everything, so maybe this VT win will solve our road dilemma. Really, it has to for us to hit 9-9.
We are going to look at both the possibility of being 5-6 and 6-5 as we move forward; one scenario saying we beat State, the other saying we didn't.
We should win this game. We cleaned them up at home last year, and I think we should this year too. They stepped into Clemson's turf and took care of them earlier this season, but I think we can beat this team. If we were to beat State and come in riding confidence from our recent success, I think this one could get ugly.
At North Carolina
Although I think we could play with Maryland at home, I don't see us having a chance on the road with them. They're a solid team, and we play really poorly against them. However, they did spoil Chris Paul's ceremony. Maybe that'll light the fire for our guys and they'll go off against the Terps in their last in-conference battle with them, but I doubt it. As for UNC, I can't imagine beating them on the road unless they continue to lose and just hit rock bottom as a team. I think that could happen, but I'm not going to bank on it. I say we lose both of those games, putting us at 6-8 or 7-7, losing either 3 or 4 of our last five games (all depending on that State game we looked at earlier). There is no way around the fact that those five games are a really tough stretch, during which we travel to every North Carolina school within the conference, as well as to a difficult Maryland venue. We really need to get a road win, but there isn't really shame in losing at those places either.
Now we have hit the home stretch, literally. 3 of the last 4 games for Wake are at home, and the final four games look like this
Regardless of whether or not we are 6-8 or 7-7, when we get to our final four, they are the biggest games of our season. They are going to make or break us. Looking at Clemson and BC, I think we could really stomp them on our home floor. Really, I'd say we would have a good shot at running BC out of the building if we played at their place if we came out with the intensity we had against VT. We played close with Clemson on their floor, and I don't think they'll be able to handle us if we get going at home. Those two must-win games leave us at either 8-8 or 9-7.
Stop me now if I've gotten too unrealistic, but I do have a scenario here that has us at 9 wins with 2 games left. I know the State game is a stretch, but it is no doubt a possible win. There is also the possibility of the miracle against Cuse that we left behind earlier that could replace the road win as our 9th if we want to get really crazy.
*Something to consider about the Duke game before you read the next part; If Travis Mckie blows up in his senior game, that Duke game could look much different than what you might be expecting
Our other, more likely scenario has us at 8-8. That is still good for us, and we even have a home game left. However, if we go 8-8 with our only road win being at VT, I'd say that the Miami game is more important than the Duke one. It is a game that I think we are capable of winning, and I think that we have to win it in order to be truly satisfied with a 9-9 season. If we beat Duke but only won a single road game, I'm not sure it proves as much.
We have a few different scenarios for hitting 9 wins here. We can beat Duke and sweep every in-state team at home, probably storm the court for the 5th time in 2 years, and then lose to Miami. If we combine that with a state loss, we are at an unsatisfying 9-9. Combine it with a State win? We are at an extremely exciting 10-8.
A loss to Duke and a win at Miami would mean we won two conference road games, and in my opinion our road schedule was extremely tough in the ACC. We would be 9-9 with a State loss, and we would have some nice momentum for the ACC tournament. Combined with a State win we could be 10-8, a three-time winner on the road in conference, and be in a really good spot.
If we beat Duke, lose to State and win at Miami, we are at 10-8 with a ridiculous 4 game winning streak heading into the tournament. That would be great to see for a Wake fan.
If we beat State, and then took down both Duke and Miami, we would be on a 4 game winning streak with 3 road wins to look at, as well as 11-7 in the conference which could take us down the road.
If you want to get really crazy, you could combine that last scenario with a Cuse win and put us at 12-6, shocking the entire world and forcing me to buy a BzNation shirt.
Getting back down to earth, I don't think 9 wins is too unrealistic, but I won't feel really good about it unless we get 3 conference wins in the mix, or 2 with a tournament win.
What does everyone else think?