By Friday night, Wake Forest had devolved from a young team full of potential first-round draft choices to a collection of parts. To rally against smart, cohesive Cleveland State, the Deacons needed a leader. They had none. Nobody in uniform led and nobody in a suit did, either.
I don't know what head coach Dino Gaudio tells his players before games, but they were as inspired against Cleveland State, a 13 seed but a talented 13 seed, as they were in the ACC tournament against Maryland.
They had the talent to come back in each. But the talent doesn't fit. Players took turns making virtuoso moves and hitting virtuoso baskets. But every time the Deacons attempted to rally as individuals, Cleveland State played as a team. The underdog's 15-point victory was never in doubt.
If I'm Gaudio, I move Ish Smith into the starting lineup. He is by far Wake Forest's best penetrator and passer, and he comes off the bench it's as if he tries to compensate for the all assists he would have had he started.
Wake Forest is a team without poise. The Deacons tried to make up their 15-point deficit, 11-point deficit or nine-point deficit on every play.
Is Gaudio an ACC head coach?
I don't know. Wake Forest doesn't, either.