Duke Preview. Will It Be Jeckyl Or Hyde?

What’s going to happen tomorrow night?  Does anyone actually know?  Does Gary Williams know which version of the Terps will show up?  Would you be willing to bet one way or another as to which team will show up?  Will MD get blown out by 40 or will they punch their ticket with an emphatic win?

I sure as hell don’t know. What I do know is that if the Terps can do what they did on Saturday (shoot 40% from three, get a Cliff Tucker-like performance from someone; and block nine more shots than their opponents); then the Terps will win.  Of that there is no doubt.

We’ve been here before.  Just last year, MD was fresh off their monumental upset of UNC and then lost a heart breaker to Duke.  It was a heart breaker because the Terps had a 10 point lead at halftime and lost it going away.  Looking back, it is clear to me that the Duke loss last year started MD on a path the led to many more second-half collapses in the ensuing 12 months.

Tomorrow is an opportunity to complete the redemption.  Like a Phoenix from the ashes, the Terps can exorcise the demons– literally.  It won’t be easy.  Duke is a much different team than UNC.  As has been noted by readers on this site; Duke plays much more aggressive defense.  Duke forces you to take care of the basketball and the Terps did not do that at all last month during the 40 point debacle.

And that brings me to Mr. Grievis Vasquez. Despite notching a triple double.  Vasquez did commit 7 turnovers.  Those are the kind of numbers he turned in last year.  Not coincidentally, Greivis took over the point guard duties against UNC.  Add that wrinkle to Duke’s aforementioned aggressive man-to-man defense, and the Terps could be walking back into the same buzzsaw that blew us out by 40.

That’s  my fear.  My hope is that the Terps finally turned a corner on Saturday.  The 40 point blow out to Duke is but a distant memory never to return.  The Terps will shoot consistently from three and not allow themselves to ever be mentally taken out a game again.

In reality; I don’t think either scenario is true.  I think the Terps will perform better than normal; but not as strongly as they did on Saturday.  I just wonder if they can win without a perfect performance.

As fans, we all want to win this game so badly; but let’s not allow ourselves to get overwhelmed by hope.  We may win; but a loss will not end the season.  The sun will rise in College Park on Thursday morning and Duke will still suck regardless of the outcome.

A Reckoning

Moments like these beg the question:  is it better to be a fan or should we all find another hobby?

Maryland has never beaten an ACC opponent the way Duke trounced the Terps today.

41 point loss.  The Terps only scored 44 points.

Herm Edwards was ridiculed for telling the Chiefs they “could build on this!” after winning their first game of the 2008 season (preceded by five lossess).  It’s funny but was he supposed to say? He coaches the team after all.

It is a good question.  What on Earth does Gary Williams say to this team after this drubbing?  They completely quit on each other and then team.  There’s plenty of blame to go around but the bottom line is that the players don’t believe in their teammates or Gary’s system.

The team disgraced themselves on the court with their total lack of effort.  The University has been embarrassed in front a national TV audience.

This season is lost.  You show me a team that loses a conference game by 41 points and still makes the NCAA Tournament and I’ll start to believe.

Is this the absolute low point?  Can it get worse than this?

Gameday Thread: Maryland v. Duke

Maryland enters the first installment of its biannual dance with Duke at a crossroads.  At 13-5, the Terps desperately need a signature win to get back into serious contention for an NCAA berth.

Terp Nation is uneasy.  Clearly undermanned upfront, the Terps have played valiantly, yet they appear to be fatally flawed in a distinct way: Maryland is unable to put teams away and/or hold big leads.

The Terps have lost three games in January.  In two of those games, Maryland blew leads of 14 (Morgan St.) and 17 (Miami) points.  What’s more, MD almost blew a 15 point lead against Virginia on Tuesday.

In my view, the culprit is one of two things:

1. The Terps are prone to lapses in which they grow complacent and fail to execute for long stretches, thus allowing the other team back in the game.

2. Maryland’s offense is one dimensional and other teams are bound to figure out how to stop the Terps over the course of a 40 minute game and when they do, the Terps collapse.

If it is the former, then the Terps can get better this year.  They can learn to maintain concentration throughout the game and throttle teams when the Terps have the upper hand.  It will be tough, but the Terps can learn to win.

If it is the latter, then the season is lost.  If teams like Miami, Morgan, and UVA can handcuff the Terps for stretches of 10 minutes or more because they have figured out that MD’s offense can be permanently neutralized; then we are surely NIT bound.  Again.

I’m not enough of a basketball expert to say which it is.  My gut and heart says the former.

Maryland will be given an excellent opportunity to prove the doubters wrong this afternoon.  The boys travel to Comcast Center South — also known as Cameron Indoor Stadium.

On paper, this game won’t be close.  Duke is ranked #2 in the country and poised to take the top spot if they can beat the Terps.  Fortunately for MD fans, Duke usually brings the very best out of our players.

In the last 10 meetings, the Terps have won 5 contests, including 3 wins at Comcast Center South.  Last year, MD lead Duke by 10 points at halftime before falling apart in the second half.  In fact, that defeat was the first in a string of five such collapses in the last 12 months: Duke, Va Tech, and Clemson last year; and the aforementioned Morgan and Miami games this year.  As if you needed another reason to hate Duke.  They started this mess!

This trend must be reversed.  The inability to hold leads hangs like an albatross on the neck of the entire team.  What better way to exorcize the demon than to triumph against the team that started it all last year?

Duke is one of the few elite teams that Maryland can match up with favorably.  Duke won’t kill us on the inside, and the Terps should have the best athletes on the floor. I believe the Terps will be battling themselves as much as they will be battling the Blue Devils.  If Maryland can remain mentally tough; then they can win.

I will be interested to see if Gary Williams is able to stop Duke’s three point shooting with his new found love of the zone defense.

The Terps need to win badly.  A victory could turn the season around. Get busy living or get busy dying.

Duke Football Revisited

This is a story I first wrote about over the summer, but I found this on YouTube; and it I just had to share it.

I’ll recap for you: The University of Louisville sued Duke University for backing out of its obligation to travel to Louisville for a football game. In the clip, Duke’s lawyer argues that the contract stipulated that the agreement could be broken if a “suitable” replacement could be found. Her argument speaks for itself:

A Story That Makes Me Smile

With all of the crap Terp fans have endured lately; I hope this brings a smile to your collective faces. the Louisville Courier-Journal recently reported on a dispute between Louisville Cardinals football team and Duke Blue Devils football team. Apparently, Duke backed out of its four-game series with Louisville after just one game.

The judge ruled in favor of Duke. The reason for the ruling, is the best part:

Duke’s lawyers argued the Blue Devils, which have a record of 6-45 over the past five seasons, were so bad that any team would be a suitable replacement.

Judge Shepherd agreed in his summary:

“At oral argument, Duke (with a candor perhaps more attributable to good legal strategy than to institutional modesty) persuasively asserted that this is a threshold that could not be any lower. Duke’s argument on this point cannot be reasonably disputed by Louisville.”

Duke’s “win” in court saved the school $450K in fines that would have resulted if they had been found to be in breach of contract. I guess when it comes down to money; no one at Duke has any trouble admitting what a joke their football program has become.

The full article can be found here.

Ugh. Maryland Loses. Dook Wins.

What can one say about tonight’s 12 point defeat at Cameron? Maryland played horrendously for the first 20 minutes. Maryland should have been down by 25 at the half. Vazquez kept us in the game, although his shot selection didn’t help matters.

We lost because Jim Gist was nonexistent. We lost because Maryland played terrible matchup defense throughout. The Terps did fight hard all game. We should have lost by 20, but somehow the Terps had a chance tie in the last 6 minutes.

I think I’ve figured out when to expect evil Nik Caner-Vazquez to emerge and jack up awful threes. It’s when there is no one consistently scoring on the inside. Without Gist contributing, we will have to endure more 25 footers with 20 seconds on the shot clock from Senor Greivis.

Grevis needs a ying to his yang. Without inside scoring, he gets impatient and feels like he needs to do it all. It is a viscous combination that Duke exploited to perfection. With that, Duke revealed the secret to beating Maryland. Neutralize either Gist or Vasquez. The other guys are just role players and simply can’t fill in the gap if our two-man show turns into a one-trick pony.

Defensively, Maryland could not match up with Duke. Osby could not check Singler out on the wing and Gist had the same trouble with Scheyer. I’ve never seen a team like Duke so fearlessly jack up threes with nary a rebounder in sight. Of course half of them are wide open looks, but they have nerve. Eventually, Duke will go cold when it matters and someone will beat them and crush their hopes and those of their dorky following.

Milbourne and Hayes were AWFUL tonight. Hayes had a five-footer to tie. Missed. Milbourne missed gimmies, fumbled passes. It was ugly.

The Terps were determined to keep Nelson and Henderson from beating them, but they forgot about the whitewash: Paulus, Scheyer, and Singler. How did we get beaten by those guys??

(Sidebar: I need to say one thing about the Duke students. The “not our rival” chant is so ridiculous. You know what? We aren’t your rival. We just hate you and everything you stand for. The dorks in face paint, the signs about our graduation rates. All of it. What kind of loser researches Maryland’s “0% graduation rate” for a sign? And furthermore, would you conduct said research for a team you did not consider to be a rival? Whatever. Go back to your pet snake and/or turtle.

For the record, the “stat” about graduation rates wasn’t researched. In 2006, Maryland’s graduation rate was 30%. What was Duke’s? 50% I just looked that up here (I guess I’m a loser too). Yet again, another example of the Duke student-athlete myth that media propagates unceasingly.)

In the end, the Terps were playing with house money. We did not need this game. It would have been sweet, but if Maryland can take care of business against FSU and Va Tech at home and become road warriors again at Wake and Miami, then they are a lock for the dance. How will they respond? The fate of the season lies in the answer.

Terps Soaring Into Cameron

The Terps recent surge reminds of the 2001 team. I need not remind of you that season. The unspeakable loss to Duke (gone in 53 seconds) followed by the collapse at home to Florida State. Gary and Juan Dixon somehow resurrected that team and they crowned their comeback with a win at Cameron Indoor Stadium that February.

My Dad gave me play by play as I waited in LAX for a flight. I had a conniption fit in the United Terminal because I knew right then that those Terps were special. Like a Phoenix from the ashes, the 2001 Terps were reborn as champions from the trash heap of those earlier losses. American U and Ohio U are not Duke and Florida State, but history has a chance to repeat itself on Wednesday.

This season is quickly becoming one of the most satisfying campaigns in Terp history. The Terp “Phoenix” has not quite risen yet; but it is starting to flap its wings. What started as a rumble in Chapel Hill in January has become a full fledged roar as the Terps head into Durham on Wednesday. Sure, Duke taught our Terps a well needed lesson two weeks ago in College Park, but boy did our boys take good notes. Four straight wins later, and Gary Williams has the Terps poised to become a great team.

Gary Williams knows how to beat Duke. Jim Gist and Boom Osby know how to beat Duke. So do Vasquez and Hayes. They have all won at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Vasquez is enjoying the most consistent stretch of his young career and you can tell how badly he and the rest of the Terps want to win. A win on Wednesday and their are no more doubters.

What I love the most about this attitude is that Maryland, for the first time in nearly two months, doesn’t actually “need” to win this game. A loss, and the Terps still control their own destiny with a relatively favorable schedule down the stretch. But that means little to these guys. Only the next game matters, and when that next game happens to be against Duke, well watch out.

Gary Williams has this team believing that they can beat anyone at anytime, and you know what? They can. If Jim Gist and Greivis are playing at their current level, the Terps may just be unstoppable. Vasquez and Gist are making it easy for the other players to do what they do.

Hayes has found a mid-range game. Osby is a rebounding, shot-blocking force with just enough post moves to keep his defenders honest. Milbourne has turned into an slashing three and an efficient defender.

I’m starting to fall in love with this team. Sure, the bench is young and thin, but it seems as though at least one of the four guys Gary rotates off the bench each game comes up big on any given night.

On Wednesday, I’m afraid that we will need contributions from everyone, but the recipe for winning is simple. You don’t need to be Gary Williams to know the following:

  • Pound the ball into Gist and Osby. Singler, Henderson, Zoubek, et.al. are no match for them down low.
  • Take care of the rock and limit turnovers.
  • Defend against the three
  • Do not let Duke spread the floor and allow Henderson and Nelson to go one on one

Everyone who follows these teams knows exactly what Maryland and Duke like to do. There are no secrets. Who’s boys are better? Despite the records, I feel pretty good about our surging Terrapins. Cameron Indoor Stadium harbors no mystique for the guys in red.

Duke fans and players can claim that we “aren’t their rivals”, but on Wednesday, they better act like we are. If they don’t, they will be heading back to their dorm rooms with an “L” and Maryland will officially be titled the “Best 17-8 team in the history of college basketball”.

Of course, Maryland is playing at Duke, so the officiating will be of concern. In fact, as someone commented on one of the big Terp message boards yesterday: the game hasn’t even started and Jim Gist just got whistled for his second foul.

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