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Wake Forest's Basketball Rivals

Wake Forest does not have one traditional basketball rival. Instead, in North Carolina's Big Four, the Demon Deacons have multiple foes. So the question remains, who is Wake Forest's biggest rival? I analyze the nominees for the No. 1 spot.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

With four historically competitive ACC programs, North Carolina is Hoop Heaven. The state is stacked with home grown talent, passionate fan bases and traditional rivalries. The on-court battles between Duke and UNC bring the entire state-and basketball fans around the nation-to a halt. The next biggest rivalry, UNC and NC State fosters a public school color war felt from the beaches of Wilmington to the Appalachian mountains.

Wake Forest, however, does not foster the same deep-rooted hatred as the other squads. With a small alumni base and less boisterous fans numerically, Wake is considered "everybody'€™s second favorite team" in North Carolina. But that doesn'€™t stop Demon Deacon fans from passionately hating their foes. Demon Deacons fans can tell you where they were when they witnessed Randolph Childress' legendary crossover--and staredown--against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament or James Johnson'€™s miraculous game-winner to defeat No. 1 Duke. For most of the 2000's, the Deacs were a legitimate third-wheel on the UNC-Duke Tobacco Road Rivalry, but the recent lack of on-court success has relegated Wake Forest to also-ran status.

Opposing fans have come to pity Wake Forest during its struggles, which is even worse than childish mockery or unabashed hatred. Regardless, Demon Deacon€™ fans still express disdain to the other North Carolina schools, not because of jealousy, but because of who they are and what they represent. Wake fans feel the darkest days are past and are eager to return to historical competitiveness and to once again brag to their neighbors. Here are the nominees for the Demon Deacons'€™ biggest basketball rivalry.


Duke University
Favorite Joke: What is the most common nickname for Duke?
Answer: The University of New Jersey at Durham
WFU All-Time Head-to-Head Record: 78-163
H2H Last 10 Games: 2-8

Duke is similar to Wake Forest in many ways. It is a small, academic, private school built with tobacco money and religiosity. A major difference? Duke is the brethren of all evil in college basketball and the most polarizing team in country. The Blue Devils are spoken in the same breath as the Yankees, the Cowboys and Notre Dame football in the passion and rage they incite. In Grantland'€™s all-time hated roster, Duke had its own division. With names like Christian Laettner, JJ Redick and Shane Battier, the Brothers Plumlee don'€™t even make the list!

Sure, these players are despised for their NBA ignominy, their grittiness and sometimes the color of their skin. But the real reason Duke is among the most hated teams in sports in for one reason. THEY WIN! With four national championships and 10 of the last 14 ACC Tournament Titles-all under Coach Krzyzewski-€”people loath the Blue Devils due to their success.

While abhorred by many around the country, college basketball fans are force fed Duke by the media. Dick Vitale, college basketball's most recognizable commentator, snuggles with a picture of Coach K every night. Additionally, Jay Bilas and Jay Williams are both Dukies turned broadcasters. With lots of success and media attention, it'€™s commonplace to see Duke t-shirts worn by people with no ties to the university. Meanwhile, their home fans, the Cameron Crazies openly worship Coach K as a god, bowing to his mere presence before every home game. Coach K embraces this gesture with his stoic demeanor and 'holier than thou' aura. While being favorites in virtually every game they play, the wily Krzyzewski creates a scrappy team of gym rats that draws tons of charges. Coach K is the devil. The Blue Devil.


Verdict: Every kid around the country has dealt with that obnoxious Duke fan in their fifth grade class. For this reason, out-of-state Wake fans have deep-rooted animosity towards the Blue Devils. Meanwhile, in-staters have bigger concerns in their own backyards.

The University of North Carolina
Favorite Joke: UNC'€˜s starting point guard, power forward and center are in a car. Who's driving?
Answer: The Sheriff
WFU All-Time Head-to-Head Record: 67-156
H2H Last 10 Games: 3-7

No university in the country has the audacity to name a color after itself except North Carolina. It is common to see "Baby Blue"  flags hung all across the state. And the most common sound in North Carolina is in-your-face Tar Heel fans talking, talking, talking and boasting about their basketball squad.
And chanting, "Go Heels. Go America!"
Objection, your honor. Relevance?


UNC has consistently been one of the best teams in the nation. They have had two legendary coaches in Dean Smith and Roy Williams. The Tar Heels have won five national titles and are third on the all-time wins list. But Carolina fans bestow such lofty expectations that underwhelming seasons, embarrassing losses and overrated recruits are inevitable. Remember when people touted Harrison Barnes as the next MJ?

While Chapel Hill was home to the most beloved-and best-€”basketball player of all time, it also housed the most disliked of our time. The No. 1 seed in the 2000'€™s bracket on Grantland'€™s article (and ultimately the runner-up to Laettner), Tyler Hansbrough is basketball'€™s Tim Tebow. His tenacity is second to none, but damn has there ever been a bigger whining, crybabying flopper?

If Hansbrough is a bad apple, Chapel Hill must be home to an orchard of apple trees.  But worse off, the school has been implicated in violating the rules, too. The UNC administration falsified grades for many student-athletes dating back to the 1990's. The university also forced the student-athletes to take specific classes to ensure they were eligible to play. And, thus far, the school comes away virtually unscathed. The NCAA fears to fully investigate its shining star, and major moneymaker. I'€™m not sure if Chapel Hill is the second home to the NCAA, but it certainly feels that way.

Three things I have learned about North Carolina:
1. Spring starts in early March and is the most beautiful time of the year.
2. Everyday is a good day for Chick-fil-a except Sunday.
3. UNC gets every single FRICKING call! No matter what!

The players know it. The ACC knows it. The NCAA knows it. And yes, UNC fans sure know it. Maybe the refs are given a pair of fresh Air Jordans for each call. I'm not sure. But the worst part about it is UNC fans still ALWAYS blame the refs after a loss. With an influence that spans far and wide, Carolina fans know just how to rub Wake fans the wrong way: open their mouths.

Verdict: For in-staters, Carolina is the worst. They can be seen or heard in every town, village or city. UNC has even infested Winston-Salem. If only out-of-staters knew how obnoxious Tar Heels fans are.

North Carolina State
Favorite Joke: How do Wolfpack fans get to the arena?
Answer: By John Deere.
WFU All-Time Head-to-Head Record: 101-138
H2H Last 10 Games: 3-7

Often the delegated other team in the Research Triangle, the Wolfpack act as the third-wheel in the rivalry. One cannot talk to a Pack fan for two minutes without a reference to the 1974 David Thompson NCAA Championship team or the miraculous Jimmy Valvano 1983 squad. (And NEVER get them started on the AIRBALL Heard 'Round the World.) Warning: they often speak in a dialect that is vaguely similar to English.

While returning to relevance under Mark Gottfried, they have a history of disappointment. Wolfpack teams are renowned for late season meltdowns and for underperforming on big stages. See: 2012-2013 Wolfpack. While Wake takes great pleasure in facilitating these in-conference collapses, the schools do not have much in common. NC State and Wake draw much different student bodies and have different academic strengths. That being said, the schools clash much more on the recruiting trail than with Duke and UNC. Wake and NC State focus more on "winning the state" while Duke and UNC can hand pick their players on a national scale.

Hands down, the Wolfpack win the category for the most obnoxious former players. Shipped off to some land between Narnia and the Gulags, they ruthlessly trash NC State opponents to return to their glory days and return to the spotlight. When was the last time you heard about Julius Hodge for something he did on the court, instead of his Twitter antics? Meanwhile, C.J. Leslie has talked himself out of the NBA (already) and looks to be headed down that same path.

Verdict: If you are a Wake Forest fan from the boonies of North Carolina or moonshine is your drink of choice, NC State is Public Enemy No. 1. For the rest of us- we keep our distance.

Boston College
Favorite Joke: What Boston sports team plays in the winter and has a roster full of Canadians?
Answer: Boston College Basketball
WFU All-Time Head-to-Head Record: 6-11
H2H Last 10 Games: 6-4

The Eagles-only in its ninth season in the ACC-don'€™t have the history of the Big Four, but BC and Wake quickly became contentious because the universities are like-minded. Both academically rigorous, private schools, many call Boston College "The Wake Forest of the North. " Additionally, coming from way up in Yankee Territory, the Eagles lacked a geographic ACC rival.

During the Bzdelik Era, Wake Forest had only four wins against the Big Four and finished behind the other North Carolina schools every year in the ACC standings. Boston College, on the other hand, gives Wake a glimmer of hope. The Eagles match the Demon Deacons' recent failure to match their historical competitiveness. Below are the team stats since the 2010-2011 season.

Team Wins-Losses Conference W-L Head-to-Head U.S. Best Colleges Rank
Team X 54-76 24-44 4 31
Team Y 51-76 17-51 3 23

The superior U.S. Best Colleges Rank was the only way I could tell that Wake Forest was Team Y.
It appeared that head coach Steve Donahue made a breakthrough last season, going 16-17 with all freshmen and sophomores. With heightened expectations this season, the Eagles went 8-24. Following the season, they dropped Donahue off on the Mass Pike and brought in Jim Christian to turn the program around. Reminder: One of Jeff Bzdelik'€™s two ACC road wins came at the hands of Boston College. And yes, an 8-24 team beat Wake at the Joel (gulp).

Additionally, the riveting rivalry has proliferated in recent years due to Blogger So Dear's love-hate relationship with  BC Interruption. Due to the intense enmity between the programs, our sites have linked together to share the underground rivalry with the rest of the nation-”and the world-”through the hash tag #TheRivalry.
Verdict: While in its nascent years, this rivalry is gaining traction in Winston-Salem and Boston alike. To me, it looks like we are approaching the Lexington and Concord of #TheRivalry!

Griff's Picks
1. Duke-€”Cameron Crazies + Coach K + Easy-to-hate Players +Media Attention x Success= Most hated team in the land
2. UNC€-Baby Blue + Air Jordan + Sean May's Belly x Chapel Hill Chants= A big fish to fry
3. Boston College-”New York Sports Fan + Boston Sports x #TheRivalry= Reinvigorated hatred
4. NC State€-Jimmy V + Late-season blunders + Rodney Purvis (Woops!)= Last, but not least