Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio sounded like he was all smiles on Monday, and for good reason.
Gaudio's Demon Deacons posted their biggest win of the season two days ago, knocking off previously No. 2 Duke 86-73. The Blue Devils suffered their first ACC loss and their first defeat in the past 13 games.
"It's been a fun few hours," Gaudio said. "But now we have to get right back to work."
Actually, Wake doesn't. The Deacs (16-8, 6-5 ACC) are off this week, idle until they travel to No. 3 North Carolina on Sunday.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Still, Gaudio's message was clear. Beating the Devils was a tremendous accomplishment, but if the Deacons are expecting that by itself to get them into the NCAA tournament, think again.
One game out of third place in the ACC, Wake is on the bubble for the NCAAs but can slide into an at-large bid with a strong finish. After facing the Tar Heels, the Deacons host Maryland, travel to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech and host N.C. State to close out the regular season.
As for No. 5 Duke (22-2, 10-1), it's still in first place by a game over the Heels and, naturally, many folks are eyeing the rematch with UNC on March 8. The game will decide the regular-season title and No. 1 seed for the ACC tournament, provided each team wins out until then.
"We've got the quick turnaround," Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said, previewing Wednesday's match at Miami. "Sunday night games are not the best games."
• BLACK AND LIGHT BLUE: Although UNC thrashed Virginia Tech 92-53 over the weekend in a game where it led by as much as 47, the injury report out of Chapel Hill on Monday was as long as ever. Coach Roy Williams said he expected guard Ty Lawson (sprained ankle) to miss his fifth straight game when the Heels play at N.C. State on Wednesday and the rest of the roster is still beat up.
"I spent Sunday night in the trainer's room," Williams joked.
Danny Green was a fair shade of his last name before the VT game, coming down with the flu. The bug hit Quentin Thomas the morning after, although Williams said since the team doctors caught it early, perhaps Thomas could avoid the major symptoms.
Marcus Ginyard (sprained right ankle, sprained left big toe) and Deon Thompson (hyperextended left knee) were hobbled against the Hokies but still played, and then ACC leading scorer/rebounder Tyler Hansbrough turned up with an infected toe. If this keeps up, Williams might be forced to yank students out of the stands just to have a bench.
• NO LOVE: Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, who's seen his Tigers (19-6, 7-4) win two straight after a double-overtime loss at UNC, credited guard Cliff Hammonds as one of the biggest reasons for the swing. After the past two years, when strong starts fizzled into fading finishes, Clemson seems to be peaking at the right time.
"I think he's one of the most underrated players in ACC history," Purnell said. "Every year he's been here, we've gotten significantly better."
Hammonds is averaging 12 points, four rebounds and 3.96 assists per game, taking over the point guard spot the past five games. Although point man Demontez Stitt has recovered from a sprained ankle that knocked him out of two games, Hammonds has done so well that Purnell has left him in.
The senior has averaged 18.4 points, 3.8 boards, four assists and 2.2 steals in the past five games. Purnell's voice lobbying Hammond for all-ACC votes is beginning to pick up supporters, if TV broadcasts tell us anything.
• HOT SEAT?: As the regular season begins its final push, the annual coaching carousel is beginning to turn. The ACC has thus far not had any strong rumors or calls for coaches' jobs, but there may be one or two once the season's done.
Although Dave Leitao led Virginia to the co-regular season title last year, this year's 12-12, 2-9 record isn't very pleasing to fans in Charlottesville. There also may be some rumblings in Florida, where Florida State (14-12, 3-8) is in line for its second straight losing ACC season and the fifth of coach Leonard Hamilton's six-year reign.
Miami coach Frank Haith has led his team to a 17-7 record but the Hurricanes are only 4-6 in the ACC. Of course, hosting Duke and Maryland this week and pulling off a couple of wins would put out any fire that's burning.
And Georgia Tech (11-13, 4-6), the only team in the league with a losing overall record, might start looking around for a replacement for coach Paul Hewitt. Although Hewitt guided the Yellow Jackets to the 2004 national championship game, Tech has gone 8-8, 4-12 and 8-8 in the ACC over the past three seasons. The Jackets have made the NCAA tournament twice in the past three years, though, going a combined 1-2.
• NEWBIES: Virginia Tech (14-11, 5-6) had five freshmen in double-figure minutes in the rout at UNC but coach Seth Greenberg said he wasn't using that as an excuse for the drubbing, nor that he was totally discouraged. It's just a matter of picking up and carrying on.
"We're in a push," Greenberg said. "We've got five wins, we've got five games."
The Hokies travel to Maryland on Wednesday before hosting Georgia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest in succession. They finish on March 9 at Clemson.