Conference expansion has eliminated the double round robin such that there will be two teams that each conference member plays only on the road and two only at home. This season, the Demon Deacons defeated the Tar Heels in Winston-Salem in January with no return trip to Chapel Hill.
This fact means that the Deacons win the tie-breaker for the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament, should the two teams finish with identical records. And since each team currently has two losses, this means that the Tar Heels are going to need some help the rest of the way. Do the Tar Heels pull for their conference rival to aid them in the standings?
"It really doesn't matter," UNC point guard Raymond Felton said of the WFU-Duke contest. "People would think, 'OK, I'm going to pull for Duke, but it honestly doesn't matter. If Duke wins, great, that works out for us. If Wake Forest wins, OK whatever. It's the same. It's not us playing, so I'm not really pulling for anybody."
"Personally, I don't care," said UNC forward Sean May, "but just for the simple fact that Wake is on the road, I want Duke to win. We have a saying here: 'We are the only team that has a right to win on the road.' It would help us, yeah, but I doubt if I will be watching because I will be concentrating on watching film on [NC] State or something."
Head coach Roy Williams has other things on his mind to worry about without thinking about other conference games. Freshman forward Marvin Williams is still suffering from turf toe, Rashad McCants has an intestinal ailment, and he's concerned about the rate at which the team is committing turnovers.
"That is enough to worry about without having to worry about that game…" Williams said. "I'm not going to let that game dictate how I feel on Sunday, I guarantee you that."
Forwards David Noel and Jackie Manuel admit to pulling for Duke in order to put the Tar Heels into a more advantageous position in the conference standings.
"Duke, we definitely want Duke to win for the simple fact that if Wake loses we are #1 in the conference," said Noel. "That is something big for us and we want that to happen for us, so we are going to be cheering for Duke… I have a lot of friends on Wake Forest's team so I would probably pull for them if it wasn't in this circumstance."
But right now, the focus for the team is the coming game against the Wolfpack in Raleigh.
"State is a tough team to play just because their offense is so tricky," said May. "They--I don't want to say they take the air out of the ball--just are really efficient in their offense and they get a lot of back-cuts.
"Julius Hodge is probably the only player who can break it off and go one-on-one. Ilian Evtimov--they run the offense through him. He is a 4/5, so I will be guarding him or Jawad [will]. So it does present a challenge, but we have played them before, we have scouted them, we understand what they run, we know what they run.
"It will be a challenge for us and a different type of game, but, at the same time, this team is more mature and we want to think of ourselves as a team who can win on the road now."