Wake opens week at No. 1
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 20, 2009
By Jim O’Connell
Head coach Dino Gaudio knew Wake Forest would probably move to No. 1 after becoming Division I’s only unbeaten team.
“I told the team when we got off the bus on Saturday, ‘If you guys are happy being No. 1 on Jan. 19, then you’re not the team I think you are,’ ” Gaudio said Monday. “All we care to worry about is getting better. There is tremendous room for improvement with these lads.”
Not as far as national ranking goes.
The Demon Deacons (16-0) beat Clemson on Saturday, then top-ranked Pittsburgh lost at Louisville hours later to set up Wake’s jump from No. 2.
It received all but four first-place votes from the 72-member panel. The Demon Deacons are No. 1 for the first time since a two-week run in November 2004, when they had Chris Paul at point guard.
“It was a very tough week with three games in seven days to start league play,” Gaudio said, referring to wins over North Carolina, Boston College and Clemson, the last two on the road. “It was incredibly challenging. Our defense carried us through the three games. The kids are buying into it, and if we continue to do that, we’ll be in games to the end with a chance to win.”
Duke (16-1) received the other four first-place votes and moved up one place to second. Connecticut (16-1) moved from fourth to third, followed by Pittsburgh. (16-1).
North Carolina (16-2) remained fifth and was followed by Oklahoma, Michigan State, Syracuse, Louisville and Clemson.
Every scholarship player on Wake’s roster was recruited by Skip Prosser, who died in 2007. Gaudio was Prosser’s assistant in Winston-Salem from 2002 until then.
Wake, which had five starters returning and a heralded three-man recruiting class, was ranked 21st in the preseason poll. With sophomore point guard Jeff Teague moving to the top of the ACC scoring list, the Demon Deacons moved steadily up the rankings.
“Teague has become more of a leader,” Gaudio said. “This team has done a terrific job sharing the ball. If we lose our chemistry, we have nothing.”
Teague is the ACC’s player of the week, and Al-Farouq Aminu is the conference’s rookie of the week.
Teague won the award for the second straight week after averaging 26.5 points. Aminu claimed the rookie award for the third time this season after averaging 13.5 points and nine rebounds in two games.
The Demon Deacons’ first game as No. 1 will be at home Wednesday against Virginia Tech. Their next game is one week later, at home against Duke in what could be the 39th matchup between Nos. 1 and 2.
Four teams moved into the rankings. Three of them ó Memphis, Gonzaga and Florida ó were in the Top 25 at some point this season, and Illinois is ranked for the first time since the final poll of 2005-06.
Louisville’s wins over Pittsburgh and Notre Dame had the Cardinals make the week’s highest jump, from 20th to No. 9. Notre Dame, which also lost to Syracuse last week, had the biggest drop, from 12th to 19th.