Wake Forest basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik said he sees moments of hope from his team - such as Travis McKie's consistency; Carson Desrosiers' nine rebounds and seven blocks against Maryland; Tony Chennault's ability to go coast-to-coast despite coming off a foot injury.
"We just need to see more of those moments," the first-year Demon Deacons coach said during Monday's ACC conference call.
Sooner rather than later, if possible.
As difficult as it is for a squad to go undefeated in ACC play (it has happened only eight times in league history, dating to 1953), it's even rarer to go winless. That has happened five times - the latest by Maryland in 1986-87 - and no ACC team has ever gone 0-16 in the conference.
Yet the 7-13 Deacons, who have been blown out by double digits in their first five league games, are on track to change that.
"We need to toughen up, mature, get stronger, all those kinds of things," Bzdelik said. "And Father Time doesn't let it happen overnight; it takes some time in the weight room ... experience. It's hard in practice to simulate; we bring out pads and we whack 'em, but it's different. We can't simulate what those games are like."
Granted, there are good reasons for Wake - which made the NCAA tournament a mere 10 months ago but has taken a giant step backward thanks to early NBA entries, injuries and a player dismissal - to hope for improvement. Chennault, the team's only true point guard, is back after breaking a foot in the season-opener, and the Deacs played well enough to keep Duke, ranked third this week, within four points early in Saturday's second half.
But is that enough for a team that ranks last in the ACC standings in scoring defense, scoring margin, assists, assist-turnover ratio and rebounding margin to win a league game? Considering the Deacs produced just 39 points last week at Georgia Tech - who many figure as the second-worst team in the conference - you've got to wonder.
Bzdelik said Monday he feels good about the future of his team, pointing out that the Deacons are young but chock full of talent (the freshmen comprise did make up a top-10 recruiting class).
He even noted the program now atop the league once went through its own down time.
"Someone told me that Coach [Mike Krzyzewski of Duke] during his first two, three years had some really huge margin of losses on several occasions as he was building and changing that culture to where it is today, and where it has been the last several decades," Bzdelik said.
However, Kryzyewski never went winless in the ACC.
Hokies in a zone
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg has never had a team play this much 2-3 zone in his career, but it is working. The Hokies, who have won nine of their past 10 games, are first in the ACC in scoring defense (59.7 points) and third in field-goal percentage defense (39.4 percent).
"I'd like to say we've spent hours upon hours on defensive transition and other things, but [with] our limited numbers, we haven't spent any time breaking down defensive transition or things of that nature," he said. "We're just trying to keep the ball in front of us, contest shots and limit teams to one shot as much as we can."
Because of a multitude of injuries, the Hokies are playing with only eight scholarship players. That forced Greenberg to adapt his usual man-to-man defensive strategy to the personnel he has left.
And then there were two: Florida State's entry into the Associated Press Top 25 on Monday (at No. 22) marks the first time the ACC has had two ranked teams since the week of Nov. 22. Duke is No. 3.
Duke senior guard Nolan Smith leads the ACC in scoring and assists, but classmate Kyle Singler continues to shine. He quietly - if that's possible - averaged 21 points and eight rebounds in two ACC road wins last week.
"The thing that is so impressive about Kyle is how hard he plays," said Boston College coach Steve Donahue, whose team visits Duke on Thursday. "And you watch the things he does away from the basketball defensively, getting in the passing lanes and then going to rebound, and he plays all these minutes. ... it's pretty incredible. His motor is just a notch above everybody else on the court."
Staff writer Ken Tysiac contributed to this report.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-829-8944 or twitter/bylinerp