The Teams: #2 Duke Blue Devils 22-2 (9-2) vs. Maryland Terrapins 17-7 (5-6)
The Time: 6:00 pm
The Place: Comcast Center, University of Maryland
Television/Radio: ESPN/ 105.7 FM, 980 AM
This evening the hated rival of the Maryland Terrapins, the Duke Blue Devils, make what could be their last trip to the Comcast Center as the Terps attempt to pull off the upset bid against the #2 Blue Devils.
Duke and Maryland will meet one time next season with the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC and while it won’t be announced for a while the general feeling is that the ACC will not be sending Duke to College Park as Maryland takes their “victory lap” around the league next season. It seems far more likely that the powers that be in North Carolina send the Terps to Cameron Indoor in what could end up being a gauntlet of a regular season schedule.
However, that is another story for another day…The Maryland Terrapins desperately need a win today to help ensure they find themselves with a ticket to the big dance next month. A loss to the Blue Devils wouldn’t necessarily be the nail in the coffin for the Terps with regard to the NCAA’s but its quite clear that a win this evening will go a very long way towards reaching that goal. Duke, like seemingly every other college basketball team this season, has not been as strong on the road as they are within the friendly confines of their own gymnasium as is evidenced by the Blue Devils squeaking by BC and Wake Forest by a combined total of 6 points on the road recently. I have always been a proponent of the fact you only need to win a game by one but the fact of the matter is those games should not have been as close as the score shows due to the distinct difference in talent level between Duke and those other programs.
In the last match up between Duke and Maryland the Blue Devils put on a shooting clinic from the outside converting on 11 of their 22 three point attempts. Rasheed Sulaimon was the Dukie who led that charge by converting on six of his eight attempts from the outside setting the tone early for the Blue Devils on their home floor. Since that game Sulaimon’s best performance from beyond the arc were a pair of 2/4 performances against Florida State and NC State. In the games against Wake Forest and Boston College where the Blue Devils struggled to put their opposition away Sulaimon was a combined 0/4 from three and only 3/10 from the field. While the potential for Sulaimon to go off from the outside is always present he remains a threat but with these recent showings on the road I would expect for Sulaimon to not be quite as hot in a tough environment at Comcast this evening.
The Terps will need Alex Len to be a force in the middle today. Mark Turgeon expressed his desire to have a more motivated Len for today’s game yesterday when he addressed the media and I would imagine Turgeon’s desire matches that of many a Terps fan. Len will need to be more aggressive today than he was in the meeting between these two in late January. In that game Len played 34 minutes but only attempted a total of six shots on his way to an 8 point and 10 rebound performance which clearly wasn’t enough as Maryland got run off the floor by their rivals from Durham. Len needs to get 12-15 good looks this evening as Maryland’s best chance surely comes by running their offense through the Ukrainian big man.
Who will get Len the ball has become a bit less clear however. With the news that junior point guard Pe’Shon Howard will be suspended for at the very least the game this evening is a big blow to the Terps despite the fact Howard’s role had shrunk as of late. If there is one thing that has plagued the Terps all season long it is their inability to take care of the basketball on offense, more specifically the inability to effectively feed the post. I have seen some bad entry passes in my day, some of which I have been responsible for, and that aspect of the game is something the Terps have yet to master it seems. By relying on combo guards Nick Faust and Seth Allen to run the offense tonight this is a trend that could unfortunately continue as neither Allen or Faust are known as great distributors.
However, anything can happen when it comes to a rivalry game…especially one in which the stakes are as high as they are for this Terrapins team. I expect Maryland to come out with a lot of emotion and a nothing to lose but everything to gain type of attitude in front of a home crowd which will be staunchly behind them and against the visitors from the Research Triangle in N.C. This will be the first Duke vs. Maryland game which I will be in attendance so I am not exactly sure what to expect in terms of the environment at Comcast but when you have students lining up to get into the arena 12 hours before tip off you know you are in for a big game.
The game plan has been laid out, the Terps have been schooled on what they need to do to win tonight and the fans are ready to do their best to help their team to victory…Since this could be the Blue Devils last trip to College Park for quite some time we don’t want to be the best hosts, right?