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Duke welcomes, if that is the right word, Maryland back into Cameron Indoor
Stadium Wednesday night after losing three straight games to the Terps.
There are two reasons, to us, why Maryland has been a thorn in Duke's side
recently. The first is some of the matchups have favored Maryland.
And secondly, certainly Duke fans and perhaps, though we hope not, the team as
well, has refused to accept Maryland's challenge. More precisely, Duke
has, pretty much collectively, refused to get on the same level as
We are referring not to the team but to Dukedom, if you will. Duke fans have
been pretty resolute in refusing to accept Maryland as rivals. The
argument tends to be, well, Carolina is our rivals, not you losers.
Duke's distaste for Maryland will never reach Duke's disdain for UNC, but
Maryland's hatred for Duke may be more than either Duke or UNC can muster for
Is it a healthy hatred? No, it's really a disturbing hatred, and by and
large, Duke fans are wise not to emulate it. But we should match the
The crudeness, the violence, we can leave alone. But the intensity -
that we can meet. And surpass.
Last year, Maryland had some real advantages in matchups with Duke. In
the Cameron game, with Shavlik Randolph still weak from mono, Gary Williams
wisely went big, starting Will Bowers at center, Ikene Ibekwe (on second
thought, it may have been Travis Garrison) and Nik Caner-Medley at forward, and
Chris McCray and the not-so-dearly departed John Gilchrist at point guard,
Maryland was bigger than Duke at every position, and once Shavlik Randolph was
exhausted, which took about 10 minutes, the Terps were going to win. That
game was over at halftime.
This year it's somewhat though not entirely different. Josh McRoberts
changes the equation up front - as long as he stays out of foul trouble.
He's bigger and stronger than Shavlik Randolph, though not as experienced and
not as good a defender. Maryland will have a lot tougher time going bigger
than Duke this year without getting either Williams or McRoberts in foul
trouble. They'll still have a size advantage with Caner-Medley and whoever
guards him, and Ibekwe can almost certainly outquick McRoberts, but Duke's two
big men can hold their own.
Last year J.J. Redick had a terrible matchup with Caner-Medley, but he gave
it his all. There's no way he can really guard someone that big without a
lot of help, though, and that remains a big matchup problem.
James Gist presents problems as well, since he is quicker than McRoberts and
bigger than Duke's other defenders. But there are other problems as well.
Last year, D.J. Strawberry was out due to his knee injury, and Maryland went
with Chris McCray on Redick. Both are excellent defenders and big enough
and athletic enough to chase Redick very closely, although that presents some
problems for Maryland.
One of those guys, probably Strawberry, will try to decapitate Duke by
choking off freshman Greg Paulus. They're both much bigger than he is and
will present him with a significant defensive challenge.
One of the other matchups which has changed since last year is that someone
from Maryland will have to guard Sean Dockery, and the game could turn on this.
Maryland can, with its basic starting group, match Duke at two out of three
perimeter positions. The third spot will be very tough, though: who is
Caner-Medley going to guard? He'll get worn out chasing Redick, and he
can't possibly chase either of the other guards.
The game will likely turn on these two players and how their coaches adapt to
the mismatch. Maryland may have more options in at least one regard.
Duke has a pretty absolute commitment to man-to-man defense, and they've
rarely wavered on that. We could see Maryland, though, going to a box and
one and sending, say, Strawberry after Redick and challenging the rest of the
team to step up.
Alternatively, the Terps could rotate Strawberry, McCray, possibly Mike
Jones, although his defense hasn't been as good as his two starting teammates,
or, conceivably, James Gist.
Duke has one other possible variation, which would be to bring DeMarcus
Nelson in to guard Caner-Medley. He may not be in good enough shape to do
it at a high level yet, but he might be able to do it for a few minutes at a
stretch. He's quick enough to keep him from driving and athletic enough to
challenge his perimeter shot.
Whatever happens, don't expect the Maryland we saw against Miami.
They've had enough of Gary over the past few days and are certain to be in a
mean mood. As usual, it's going to be an intense game. Let's hope
Duke - and everyone in Cameron - matches Maryland's aggressiveness.