Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Terp Nation #2

Terp Nation #2

Why is this night different from all of the other nights, Terrapin Nation?

Because tonight is the Duke game, 9 p.m. on the Flagship, with Dickie V. on color commentary, Gary sweating through his suit before the first TV timeout, and our Turtles clawing to beat Duke for the (yes) fourth straight time.

Did you even realize that Maryland has won the last three? That’s right, the Terps beat Duke in the ACC tournament in 2004, then twice last year. Which begs the question, does beating Duke really make your season? What do you remember about last year’s Terps? I remember the team missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in a dozen years, the Gilchrist drama, and the overall malaise of watching a program suffer through a downer of a year.

But it still feels good really good fantastic amazing orgasmic to beat Duke doesn’t it? And why is that? Well, here are some reasons why a win tonight would be right up there with found money:

  • Duke is 14-0 and ranked #1 (uh-gain).*
  • J.J. Redick
  • Is anything better than watching Coach K. quietly stew late in a game he is going to lose while his face turns beet red? (Sure, Gary is a spaz, but at least we know what he’s thinking. When things don’t go his way, Coach K. ducks his face in his hands or turns his back and, don’t kid yourself, spews fourth a string of very dirty profanity.)
  • Silencing the Cameron Crazies just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?

*I was looking up a stat on the Duke sports website ( … don’t go there, it’s almost as disturbing as A Clockwork Orange. You just clicked it, didn’t you? I told you not to. Don’t blame me.) and read that 14 times in the 21 seasons under Coach K., Duke has been ranked #1 at some point in the season. I mean, that’s impressive, no matter how much they annoy you. You know how many times Maryland has ever been ranked #1 during the regular season at any time in any season in the history of the program? That would be zero. I’m just sayin.

** I’m not a J.J. hater, he’s actually one of the more interesting and impressive players to come along and stick around for four years in quite some time. If you take away the fact that he wears a Duke uniform, which is impossible, you can sit back and just enjoy one of the great offensive players in college basketball of the last decade. But facts are facts, and the fact here is that J.J. swishes 40 footers for the enemy. At least he has grown up a bit, and stopped celebrating baskets like he just nailed a half-court bomb for a million dollars. That part was really annoying. Lee Melchionni still does this. Watch him after he makes a big bucket, or better yet, when one of his teammates does, especially after a three-point play. He will jump in that players arms like an 8th grade cheerleader. C’mon, Maryland can beat Duke, right? Lee Melchi-freakin-onni?

Where were we? Oh yeah, reciting reasons why it would feel good to beat Duke. So, can it happen? Will it happen?

Oh man, I don’t know. I mean, of course it can happen, Maryland is about the only team in the ACC in the last 10 years to figure out a way to beat Duke on a consistent basis, and even the Terps aren’t even that good at it. Let’s throw some quick data your way on this…

Since the 1998-99 season, which was Juan Dixon’s freshman year and the year Steve Francis honored Cole Field House with his presence, kicking off the most successful era in the program’s history, Maryland is 7-11 vs. Duke. That’s respectable, and I have to think, though I didn’t look it up, better than any other ACC team during this period. UNC, for example, is 3-15 against Duke since 1998-99 (sorry Edmonds).

For the better part of a decade, Maryland-Duke has been the best rivalry going in college basketball, even though tonight’s version isn’t nearly as compelling as the Dixon/Blake/Baxter, etc. squad vs. Jay Williams/Shane Battier/Carlos Boozer, etc. but, well, you take what you can get, right?

Getting back to whether or not Maryland will win…

Lloyd: What are the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me... ending up together?
Mary: Not good.
Lloyd: Not good like one in a hundred?
Mary: I'd say more like one in a million.
Lloyd: So you're telling me there's a chance?

No, no, no. The odds aren’t that bad. Maryland and Duke have split their last 12 games dating back to 2001 and Duke has only lost six games at home since the 1999-2000 season and Maryland owns three of those wins. So… all of this is a long-winded way of saying that even though the Terps lost at mediocre Miami on Saturday and Duke clubbed a surging Wake team the next day, the Terps can win tonight. I’d say it’s a 3-1, maybe a 4-1 shot.

Oh, what the hell, Maryland 89, Duke 86.

What was that in Miami?

How to explain Maryland’s stinker at Miami over the weekend? Two things stand out in my mind. First, Miami got really hot from three-point land and never cooled off. They went 12-19 from behind the arc. When a team has three guys who are just feeling it from long range all in the same game, well, you are just going to lose that game, and lose is what Maryland did. The other factor that stands out in my mind is that Chris McCray had his first bad game of the year; shot 1 for 7 from the field and didn’t get double figures for the first time all year. Let’s just try to block that one out, shall we?

Worst part about the loss is that it casts doubt on whether or not Maryland is any good. Miami hadn’t beaten any good teams this year and somehow it all came together with the Terps in town. Time will tell. As diggruntled Terp watch Ron Herbst said on my voice mail after the game, “They just keep waiting for other teams to get worse.” Let’s hope that’s not the case. As A. Wolfe put it in a text message, “Maryland sucked today.” True enough.

The Andre Collins show

I swung over to Loyola College in Baltimore on Sunday to see with my own eyes the Andre Collins show. Collins, the Maryland transfer, is currently second in the country in scoring at about 28 points per game, sitting there between Adam Morrison and Redick on the scoring chart.

So, what’s it like at a Loyola game? Well, it feels much more like a high school game than a big-time college atmosphere. I parked on the street for free, walked a few minutes through campus to the arena; paid $5 for a general admission ticket, then sat center court about 10 rows up. The students were still on break so it wasn’t as lively as it might have been, but they probably got about 2500 people in there.

Best part was that I was surrounded by a bunch of Baltimore city and county coaches, all of whom had some connection to the players or were there to see Collins, or were there to see each other. What’s not to like? For all blather about Maryland this and Maryland that, it was really fun to catch a game that felt a lot more like a game than a staged production.

As for Collins, he had 29 on 9 of 25 shooting, and all 9 of his made baskets were 3s. Loyola won by 2, thanks to a Collins 3 in the last 20 seconds, fun for the whole family.

Drew Nicholas lighting up the EuroLeague

This week’s feel-good story about a former Terp comes to you from Treviso, Italy, home of historic churches, beautiful canals, and a lanky 6-3 shooting guard who has become, in the words of one NBA scout, the “Richard Hamilton of European basketball.” After his senior season, Nicholas didn’t get much of a look from any of the top European clubs, much less the NBA. Three years into his professional career, Nicholas is gunning for his third scoring title, currently leading all EuroLeague players at about 19 points per game (

He played his first year for a second-tier Italian League team and led the league in scoring at 28 points per game. His second year, last year, Drew moved up to the top Italian league and again led the league in scoring while playing for a bad team. This year, Nicholas moved up to one of the top teams in Italy and all of European basketball, Benetton Treviso (, and is thriving once again. If you click around on the EuroLeague website (, you’ll find plenty of recognizable names from big-time American programs, guys like Trajan Langdon from Duke, Louis Bullock from Michigan, Scoonie Penn from Ohio State, and plenty of others. His own teammate incidentally, a big Italian named Andrea Bargnani, will probably be one of the top five picks in next year’s NBA draft.

That’s going to do it for this week. Go Terps.

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