Monday, March 16, 2009

Deacons focusing on the positives

With his fourth-seeded Wake Forest team looking at a Friday night NCAA tournament opener against Cleveland State in Miami, Deacons coach Dino Gaudio is focusing squarely on the positives rather than his team’s flat performance against Maryland in the ACC tournament.

Gaudio gave the Deacons two days off to rest their legs and clear their minds after the ACC tournament and refused to let his team practice when they requested an organized workout after the NCAA pairings were announced Sunday evening.

The second-year Wake Forest coach said he watched Cleveland State tape until nearly midnight Sunday with his assistants. When he left, he noticed lights were on in the team’s practice gym and assumed some of the players were still there.

“We’ve done a terrific job this season,” Gaudio said on a teleconference Monday. “We were 6-1 against top-50 teams. We were 3-1 against top-10 teams. I don’t know if anybody was 6-1 against the top 50. I think it’s a confident group. They’re really excited to play.”

After reviewing the Deacons’ 75-64 loss to Maryland, Gaudio said his team was “a little tight” and had trouble shooting against Maryland’s 3-2 zone defense.

“We had good looks,” Gaudio said. “We missed 52 shots. That’s hard to do. We only had nine turnovers.”

Against Cleveland State, the Deacons will face a team making its first NCAA appearance since 1986. The Vikings won the Horizon League championship in a season in which they won at Syracuse and Butler.

“They are a hard-nosed, man-to-man defensive team,” Gaudio said. “They press at times. We saw a couple of tapes where they played some ‘junk’ defenses. We’ve seen those on Jeff (Teague) and James (Johnson)."

-- Ron Green Jr.