Duke is back at No. 1, but staying there has proved to be difficult this month for Atlantic Coast Conference teams.
Looking for their 11th straight win, the Blue Devils (18-1, 5-0) will test their footing in a major way, traveling on Wednesday to face No. 6 Wake Forest— the team Duke replaced atop the rankings.
Duke ascended to the top spot for the first time since the final poll of 2005-06, thanks to Saturday’s 85-44 rout of Maryland combined with the Demon Deacons’ 78-71 loss on Jan. 21 to Virginia Tech.
Duke became the third ACC team to reach No. 1, as North Carolina was there until a Jan. 4 loss to Boston College. It’s the first time in the 59-year history of the Associated Press poll three teams from the same state have reached No. 1 in a season, and the fourth time three teams from the same conference have earned that ranking.
“It’s a big deal for us because it means we’re playing really well,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We talked about it last week that, just don’t worry about anything, let’s just play. It’s the same thing we’re going to tell them going into this next week. … It’s an honor and it says you’re playing real well. You don’t get anything from it except a really big headline when you lose.”
Wake Forest knows all about that after falling to the Hokies.
Ranked No. 1 for the second time in school history, the Demon Deacons fell behind by 16 in the first half and trailed by 10 at halftime. A second-half rally fell short despite Jeff Teague scoring 13 of his team-leading 23 points and James Johnson adding 16 of his 18.
For the first time this season, Wake Forest (16-1, 3-1) allowed an opponent to shoot 50.0 percent, and also had one of its worst offensive performances while shooting only 43.1 percent.
“We’re going to find out about our guys a little bit,” Demon Deacons coach Dino Gaudio said. “There’s tough kids in that locker room. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll bow their necks … and go back to work.”
Teague also scored 26 points and Johnson had 24 in last season’s 86-73 win over then-No. 2 Duke. Teague’s, the ACC’s second-leading scorer with 21.5 points per game, has averaged 28.0 in the past five games.
While Teague has proved the Demon Deacons’ go-to player, the Blue Devils have won with balance and a defense that has allowed 51.6 points and 35.7 percent shooting in conference play.
Kyle Singler leads Duke with 16.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game, but Gerald Henderson has topped the team in scoring in five straight games. In that time, Henderson has averaged 21.0 points, shot 64.2 percent of his shots and 10-of-13 from 3-point range.
Wake Forest has won four of its last five home games against the Blue Devils, but the loss came when the Blue Devils were No. 1—an 82-64 defeat on Jan. 8, 2006.
Wake Forest is 4-24 against No. 1 teams with all those wins coming when the Demon Deacons were unranked. Wake’s previous victory over a top-ranked opponent, however, came over Duke at home, 72-68 on Feb. 23, 1992.
The Blue Devils have taken five of the last six overall meetings and leads the all-time series 155-76.