With three of the four brackets already released for voting, it's time to turn our attention to the last two games of the first round of the Wake Forest Tournament. The Prosser Region features an intriguing confluence of teams spanning three different coaches (Murray Greason, Dave Odom, and Skip Prosser) where each squad believes they have a chance to make a deep run in the tournament. In the first game the number one seed, the 1995-96 Demon Deacons, squares off against the oldest team in the bracket in the 1952-53 Demon Deacons, who won the Southern Conference. The second matchup of the day will pit Rodney Rogers and the 1992-93 Deacs against the 2002-03 Demon Deacons in what could be the closest first round matchup overall.
1. 1995-96 Demon Deacons v. 1952-53 Demon Deacons
The 1995-96 Demon Deacons, led by Tim Duncan, bounced back from the departure of Randolph Childress to record a 26-6 overall record. They started the season ranked 11th in the nation, never fell below 14th in the polls, but never jumped above 6th either. With Tony Rutland and Jerry Braswell in the back court for most of the season, Wake was able to finish second in the regular season ACC standings before repeating as ACC Tournament champions. The ACC title was costly though as Rutland suffered a knee injury and was unable to meaningfully contribute in the NCAA Tournament. Without Rutland the Deacs struggled, beating ULM by twelve before snagging two close victories over Texas and Louisville to advance to the Elite Eight - the furthest Duncan would make it in the Tournament. Unfortunately for the Deacs, Kentucky was absolutely dominant and drubbed the Deacs by twenty en route to the national title the next weekend. For this Tournament's purposes, we're going to throw Rutland in as a healthy player.
The 1995-96 Deacs will look to avenge their loss to Kentucky by taking out the frustration on the 1952-53 Demon Deacons who made it into the Tournament by virtue of their Southern Conference Tournament Championship (kidding...sort of). Led by absolutely prolific scorer and rebounder Dickie Hemric, the 1953 Deacs went 22-7 overall and won the final Southern Conference Tournament ever with a 71-70 victory over N.C. State. Despite having a pretty solid season overall, Wake lost to something called the McCrary Eagles in December but then bounced back a few days later to knock the Eagles off before beating the ever-difficult Enka MIlls squad (seriously that's their name...Enka Mills) 88-62. Wake entered the polls in March for the first time and were ranked 15th in the final poll of the year but fell to Holy Cross in the second round after receiving a bye. They bounced back to get third in the East with a win over Lebanon Valley in a consolation game.
For the 1953 Deacs to have much of a shot, Hemric will need to establish himself down low against the bigger and more physical Tim Duncan. Any Duncan v. Duncan battles down the road notwithstanding, this may be one of the most interesting interior matchups of the Tournament as these cross-generational players take each other on in the post.
1. 1995-96 Demon Deacons
4. 1952-53 Demon Deacons
2. 2002-03 Demon Deacons v. 1992-93 Demon Deacons
The 2002-03 team led by Skip Prosser and ACC Player of the Year Josh Howard grabbed a two seed in the NCAA Tournament on the back of a 25-6 overall record and a 13-3 performance in conference play. The Deacs had the best overall regular season record in the ACC and after surviving a scare against East Tennessee State in the first round, were upended by tenth-seeded Auburn in a game, much like nearly every post-season in Wake basketball history, most Wake fans would like to forget. With guys on the roster like Vytas Danelius, Taron Downey, Justin Gray, Jamaal Levy, and Eric Williams, who would form the core of the Chris Paul teams at Wake, the 2003 Deacs should be a tough out.
If anyone can knock them off though, who better than Wake Forest legend Rodney Rogers and the 1992-93 Deacs? Rogers averaged 21.2 points and 7.4 rebounds a game while some guy with a quirky name, Randolph Childress, similarly lit up the scoreboard with 19.7 points a game on a ridiculous 44.2% shooting from outside the arc on 217 attempts - one of the most prolific outside efforts over the course of a season in Wake history. The 1993 squad went 21-9 overall, finishing the season ranked 16th in the final AP poll. The Deacs went 10-6 in the ACC, good enough for fourth in the regular season, but were topped by UVA in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Wake advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after wins over Chattanooga and Iowa, but were pummeled (sensing a theme today) by Kentucky 103-69 (down 60-26 at the half) to end the Deacs season and Rogers' career in Winston-Salem.
Rogers should be able to take control of the paint against the 2002-03 squad and with Chill outside to stretch the D and knock down threes, this game could be ripe for an upset. Can Josh Howard prompt his team to victory?
2. 2002-03 Demon Deacons
3. 1992-93 Demon Deacons
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This concludes the first round portion of the Wake Forest All-Time NCAA Tournament. The Elite Eight will kick off on Monday while some of the results from the first round will be revealed shortly. Who will capture today's matchups? Cast your vote and leave a comment telling everyone why you voted that way. And as always, go Deacs!