In blowouts like the one Wake Forest experienced last weekend at Duke, a 90-59 dismantling, there’s usually at least some kind of distinct run — basketball is a game of them, if you haven’t heard — that separates the better team from the other one.
There certainly were distinct points in the home losses sandwiching the one at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Florida State hit Wake Forest with runs of 11-2 and 15-6 in the second half to close out the Deacons last week. Virginia Tech’s 11-2 and 11-0 runs Tuesday night meant a 20-point lead with 6:30 left.
Not much like those stretches against Duke, though. The most points Duke ever scored consecutively while building a 26-point halftime lead? Seven.
The question to Coach Danny Manning, then, was when he felt the game slipped out of reach.
The answer was winding and told us nothing other than when in games like that, “you’re looking for a spark, you’re looking for juice.”
Paint touches and free throws were mentioned.
The real answer to the question was probably in something Manning addressed earlier. And there’s an argument to be made that Wake Forest has lost each of the last three games in the same time frame, with a walk to the court rather than a run during the game.
It occurs roughly 90 minutes before tip.
That’s when players trickle out to the court for shoot-around. That’s when, for the last three games, Chaundee Brown has held the same role as managers.
Rebound, pass, joke and/or smile. Repeat.
Brown has missed the last three games with what’s only been classified as a lower leg injury.
His averages — 13.3 points, 6.5 rebounds per game — aren’t going to jump off the page as one of the biggest missing players in the country. But what he means to Wake Forest, having become the complete package of shooter, slasher, perimeter defender, versatile asset and captain, means he’s vital to the Deacons.
And sorely missed.
“I mean, Chaundee is a very key guy on the team,” senior point guard Brandon Childress said. “So when someone goes out like that, of course it’s going to affect our play a little bit, especially somebody who’s the second-leading scorer on the team.
“Even rebounding, you know, Chaundee is a heck of a rebounder. He’s also a good defender, as well. You take that, it’s a big chunk missing.”
Wake Forest even won a game without Brown this season, the 82-70 win against Davidson that wasn’t even that close. Some shine has faded from that one: Davidson is 7-9 and has lost four of its last five. The best team the Wildcats have beaten, per KenPom.com, was 95th-ranked Loyola Chicago.
It seems that the Deacons can’t really compete in an ACC game without Brown. The next litmus test comes with Sunday night’s visit from Boston College.
Boston College is 168th in KenPom’s ranking entering Friday night’s games — by far the lowest ranking for an ACC team. Wake Forest is the only other team in triple digits, at 112.
And yet, the Eagles are 3-3 in the ACC. They managed to work in a win against Virginia last week — the only win in the past four games, with the three losses coming by 39, 19 and 26 points.
The ACC is, like most leagues seem to be, unpredictable. Duke looked ready to steamroll through the conference and lost at Clemson. Virginia can’t score. Syracuse can only shoot. Louisville can’t get consistent point-guard play. Miami and Notre Dame are shells of the ACC champion teams they were seven and five years ago, respectively.
But the Deacons are predictably at the bottom of the conference, and there’s no reason to believe that will change until Brown returns.