ATLANTA -- Wake Forest coach Dave Odom wouldn't be upset. Really, he couldn't be upset.
In losing to Alabama, 96-88, yesterday in the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Southeast Regional at The Omni, No. 5 seed Wake had played as well as it could.
Alabama was simply that much better.
Odom said this finally might be the year the fourth-seeded Crimson Tide advances past the regional semifinals, where it has been eliminated four times in the past six years.
At least the Tide will get another chance in the Sweet 16. Last year, it fell, 62-60, to Loyola Marymount in the West Regional semifinals in Oakland, Calif.
Once again, No. 4 seed Alabama (23-9) is the only Southeastern Conference team remaining in the tournament. This time, it may have a better chance of advancing.
The Tide plays top-seeded Arkansas, a 97-90 winner over Arizona State, on Thursday in the regional semifinals at Charlotte, N.C. Arkansas will be favored to win, but the Tide appears to be playing its best basketball of the season.
"Alabama is playing at a level right now in which it is capable of beating any team in the country -- and I don't exclude UNLV," Odom said. "I think you are going to have a hard time finding a team that can beat Alabama the way they are playing right now. I mean, we shot 60 percent from the floor."
And Wake (19-11) still lost.
"Alabama wouldn't give us a chance to win," Odom said. "They played flawless basketball."
Alabama's Gary Waites, who scored just six in a November game that Alabama won, 96-95, in overtime, had 21 yesterday, continuing his blazing scoring streak in the second half of the season. He had 19 in the first half, including his fifth three-pointer just two seconds before halftime.
His only field goal of the second half came with 5:40 to play after Wake had cut a nine-point lead to three. Waites' long jumper started another 6-0 run that gave Alabama control for good.