So now we know Wake’s problem over the first three games of the basketball season.
Turns out there was nothing wrong with the Deacons that benching Keyshawn Woods couldn’t cure.
If you don’t think I’m being facetious here, we’ve obviously never met. The real reason Wake finally broke through after three ignominious losses was it took the Deacons that long to find somebody they could beat.
That somebody proved to be Quinnipiac, as bad a team as Wake can expect to play all seasons. I checked out two RPI polls during the 72-55 Deacons’ victory, one of which had the Bobcats at No. 307, the other at No. 324.
In case you’re wondering, there are 351 teams playing college basketball.
What was interesting about Wake’s win was the lift the Deacons got from bench players like Donovan Mitchell, Olivier Sarr and Melo Eggleston – none of whom had shown much of anything in the first three games. The contributions came in handy with Doral Moore – he of the 17 points and 17 rebounds in Friday’s loss to Drake – limited to 11 minutes by foul problems.
Mitchell, who played only 11 minutes in the first three games combined, was especially impressive with 8 points and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes. His two 3-pointers in the first half helped the Deacons bolt out to a 23-point lead that was too large for even the Deacons to blow.
But if you’re like me – and I’m sure that’s a scary thought – then your biggest question coming out of this game was what’s the deal with Woods, the transfer from Charlotte who has been integral to the Deacons fortunes ever since he became eligible before last season? Listening to the IMG Sports broadcast from Lynchburg, I learned that he was not in uniform because of what was described as a coach’s decision.
So what did Woods do, when did he do it and how long will he be out? Will he be back for Sunday’s game against Houston?
The most open program in the ACC for so many years is open no longer. These days it’s about as closed as closed can be.
There’s a part of me that understands why Danny Manning closed practices to the media upon arrival. He’s only doing what most of his conference rivals did years and years ago.
Having said that, I confess my coverage of the Wake program under Manning wasn’t what it was when Dave Odom, Skip Prosser, Dino Gaudio and Jeff Bzdelik were running the show. It got to where I rarely wrote my take on Wake basketball because I wasn’t close enough to the program to really have one.
Manning’s inclination is to keep everything close to the vest, and again, he’s hardly the Lone Ranger of college basketball coaches in that regard. But when the media doesn’t know the program, then neither do the fans not privileged and/or well-heeled enough to buy the access.
Wake, for the first 20 years I covered the beat, was special. My paper, the Winston-Salem Journal, benefited greatly, but I like to think so did the Deacon fans who cared enough about the program to pick up the paper our check us out on-line.
Being the smallest school in the ACC surrounded by larger, more prominent state institutions, Wake needs a special relation with its fan base – what there is of it. The numbers alone dictate that the only way the Deacons come close to filling up one of the biggest arenas in the conference is by appealing to free-agent fans, the ones who didn’t go to school there but might pull for Wake because its local or because there are interesting players or coaches on the team.
So in the fourth game of his fourth season, with his team still looking for its first win, Manning benches a key player and gives no explanation other than that’s what he decided to do.
That’s his right. It’s his team.
But if he keeps boxing out the media – and through the media, the fans – then how long will it be before nobody cares enough to even ask him the question?