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Pepperdine challenges, but Wake Forest too much
Craig Dawson's first and last trip to the NCAA tournament isn't over yet.
 
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Thursday, March 14, 2002
Demon Deacons upset over upset talk

By Tim Keown
ESPN The Magazine

SACRAMENTO -- Wake Forest is angry. Before you ask why, remember what we're dealing with here. In the NCAA Tournament, you're either overhyped or disrespected, and the ratio of the first to the second is roughly 4:61.

We've played with a chip on our shoulder all year long. Coach (Skip Prosser) said we had to play with a chip. As soon as our name went up on the board, they said we were the upset special. They picked us to lose, but we deserve to be here and we deserved to win.
Broderick Hicks,
Wake Forest guard

But Wake Forest is particularly angry because it was chosen as a ripe and obvious choice to be beaten in the first round of the Midwest Regional in Sacramento. There were reasons, of course, starting with the Pepperdine, the Demon Deacons' opponent Thursday.

Pepperdine was supposed to fit all the requirements for a chic, look-how-much-we-know pick. They're fast, unpredictable, and better than their conference would indicate. They're also coached by someone -- Paul Westphal -- who has seen enough to know both how and why his 10th-seeded team could win.

And Wake Forest hadn't won a tournament game since Tim Duncan roamed the land, and that's before anyone on the current roster was old enough to feel disrespected by the nation's pointier basketball heads.

So after the Demon Deacons dispatched of the intentionally ragged Waves, 83-74, there was some jawing to do. "We've played with a chip on our shoulder all year long," said Wake's Broderick Hicks. "Coach (Skip Prosser) said we had to play with a chip. As soon as our name went up on the board, they said we were the upset special. They picked us to lose, but we deserve to be here and we deserved to win."

Pepperdine started frantic and lousy, then warmed up to frantic and proficient, then settled for just plain frantic over the final six minutes. However you look at it, frantic wasn't the way to go. They fell behind 9-0 and 15-2, briefly took the lead early in the second half and then played just poorly enough to lose down the stretch.

Prosser showed promise, however, by attempting to take over the media session with his wit. He came up with some good lines, but perhaps being in the same subregional with Rick Majerus caused him to force some shots. The strain showed at times, but expect him to go over the routine Friday and come back Saturday with a little more refinement.

Explaining the play of his two Lithuanians, Darius Songaila and Vytas Danelius, Prosser said, "Good. Good," in what he promised was Lithuanian. Asked by one of the more detail-minded reporters to provide a spelling, Prosser said, "I have a hard time spelling words in English. I'm from Pittsburgh, remember."

The Demon Deacons will get a chance to strut their anger again on Saturday, when they face No. 2 seeded Oregon. The Ducks put on a thoroughly dispirited display of winning basketball in beating undermanned, undertalented and way underheighted Montana.

It was hard to decide the best moment of the Montana-Oregon game, but it was either the Oregon male yell leader viciously and profanely ripping his team early in the first half (flying directly in the face of the traditional yell leader stereotype) or it was the public-address announcer's decision to say, "Wyoming ball!" after a Duck turnover.

Either way, it was enough to give Wake Forest reason to believe there's a chance it can stay angry well into next week.

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at tim.keown@espnmag.com.