Wake Forest-Notre Dame Preview
Notre Dame's previous stint as a ranked team lasted four weeks, but this one could prove even shorter - especially if leading scorer Demetrius Jackson remains out.
Jackson will likely sit again as the No. 25 Fighting Irish look to avoid back-to-back defeats Sunday against scuffling Wake Forest.
Notre Dame was ranked in the first three polls this season but dropped out after losing two of three to finish November. The Irish (14-6, 5-3 ACC) crept back in following a season-high four consecutive victories, most notably a 95-91 win at then-No. 9 Duke on Jan. 16.
That streak ended with an 81-66 loss at Syracuse on Thursday that Jackson missed because of an ailing right hamstring.
"In this league, you have to forget about a win at Duke. You have to forget a loss at the Carrier Dome," coach Mike Brey said. "You get thumped, you get your butt kicked, it only counts as one league loss. If we could get through the first half of the season at 6-3 ... I'd be absolutely thrilled."
V.J. Beachem scored a career-high 22 points while going 5 of 8 from beyond the arc, but Steve Vasturia (16 points) was the only other Notre Dame player in double figures. Vasturia moved over to point guard because of Jackson's injury, and the Irish committed nine of their 11 turnovers in the first 15 minutes.
"We were a little rudderless at times without Demetrius, no question, and we may have to keep playing without him for a while," Brey said.
Notre Dame is 10-1 at home and could survive without Jackson against the Demon Deacons (10-10, 1-7), losers of five in a row, but things get much tougher after Sunday's game. The Irish will face three top-20 teams in their next four along with a Clemson squad that's 6-2 in the ACC.
The Irish lost both meetings with Wake Forest in 2013-14 but won 88-75 on Feb. 17, the Deacons' first trip to South Bend, while making 27 of 28 free throws.
Wake Forest heads into Notre Dame this time 0-4 in ACC road games with three of those against ranked opponents. The Deacons are playing their fourth consecutive Top 25 team after a nearly unfathomable loss to No. 11 Virginia on Tuesday.
The Cavaliers escaped with a 72-71 win when Darius Thompson banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Wake Forest blew a 10-point lead in the final 77 seconds.
"This is a very disappointing and tough 'L' to take. They're all tough," coach Danny Manning said. "To be in a situation where we have a lead for 35 minutes of a game and not come away with a win, it's just tough."
Freshman guard Bryant Crawford scored a career-high 22 points and leading scorer Devin Thomas (16.4 ppg) had 19. Thomas had 26 points - the second-most in his career - and 11 rebounds in last season's loss to Notre Dame.
Wake Forest has lost 12 straight road games against ranked ACC opponents since beating No. 24 North Carolina in January 2010.