Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Maryland at Duke - Big 'Un Tonight

Here are the numbers of Maryland vs. Duke over the last 7 years:

Series record over that time: 7-7

2001-2002 (1-1)
L @ Duke, 99-78
W @home, 87-73
Md. went on to win the national championship.

2002-2003 (1-1)
W @ home, 87-72
L @ Duke, 75-70
Md. lost in sweet 16

2003-2004 (1-2)
L @ home, 68-60
L @ Duke, 86-63
W ACC Tournament Final, 95-87*
When Gilchrist went nuts for 3 days (in a good way)
Md. lost in round of 32 to Syracuse

2004-2005 (2-0)
W @ Duke, 75-66
W @ home, 99-92
Note – in the '04-'-05 season, Maryland beat Duke twice, but went 16-12 (7-9) and went to the NIT. Beating Duke feels good, does not guarantee a good season.

2005-2006 (0-2)
L @ Duke, 76-52
L @ home, 96-88
NIT disaster, home loss to Manhatten, that wasn't fun.

2006-2007 (2-0)
W @ home, 72-60
W @ Duke, 85-77
Back to the NCAA tournament, round of 32 loss to Butler.

2007-2008 (0-1)
L @ home, 93-84
?? @ Duke

If you stretch out the results to 8 years, that includes the epic 2000-2001 season, when Maryland made its first ever Final Four. They played Duke four times that yeare and went 1-3; 1-1 in the regular season, then Duke won in the ACC tourney, and the NCCA Final Four in Minneapolis. That's when Duke had Jason Williams, Duhon, Boozer, and Battier, and Maryland had Dixon, Blake, Baxter, Morris, and Wilcox. Those were four of the most intense and exciting games in the history of the rivalry; they were in fact, the marquee games of the college season.

Maryland vs. Duke BECAME a huge rivalry during that season for a couple reasons. First, as noted above, great players. A bunch of NBA players and very, very good college players.

Second, great games that meant something – ACC championships, Final Fours.

Third, during an era of Duke dominance over the rest of the ACC, Maryland stepped us as the only team that could actually win on their court, or win against Duke at all, during a period when Coach K. re-established his team as the team to beat in the ACC and the country. (UNC was fumbling and bumbling through the post Dean, pre-Roy era.)

Say whatever you want about Coach K. and the Dukies, but they have great players, and they win and win and win. Also, if you allow yourself to drop the hate and watch the game pure and simple (which is difficult), Duke is, forgive me, a fun team to watch. They share the ball. They shoot a lot of threes, they play with fierce intensity.

It's the whole 'floor-slapping, we are Duke, sign the court, Cameron Krazies, how dare you think about beating us' thing that makes us, as fans, get particularly annoyed by Duke. They are very annoying.

So what will happen tonight? This isn't just a homer pick, I honestly think Maryland will win. The Terps are playing great basketball right now and probably want this game more than Duke at this point in the season. Plus, Greivis plays his best when fans are all over him and the spotlight shines brightest. I wonder what hair style he'll come out with tonight? D.C. Sports Bog did an entire column on this topic, a great read:

Greivis is Mr. GQ

Duke is great, but right now, I think Maryland is up to the task, especially when Vasquez and Gist are playing well, which they are. Those two I would put up against any point guard and power forward in the country. That said, Duke has more depth and has lost only once this year, at Pitt, by one. Still, the pick here is Maryland 88 Duke 84 because it just feels right.

Finally, keep one thing in mind. Maryland can lose tonight, get blown out tonight, and it doesn't make or break the season. The most important games are the other ones - must wins like home vs. FSU and Va. Tech, and needing to get 2 out of three vs. Clemson and at Wake and at UVa. Do that, and the Terps will go 10-6 or 11-5 in the ACC and back to the dance. Wouldn't it be a crime if James Gist only went to one NCAA tournament in his four years at Maryland? Just gotta take care of the games you're supposed to win. Tonight is for fun.

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