Next up for Duke is Maryland, on a day when Duke honors both Mike Krzyzewski and the overall basketball program. Coach K is coaching his 1,000th game at Duke, it's also his birthday, and dozens of former players will be on hand, including Lefty Driesell, as the left-hander played at Duke in the 50's.
Not that Maryland will care. After the ungodly whipping Duke laid on them last year, Maryland is going to come into this game with great motivation. Add to that the fact that first place in the conference is online, and this game is officially a Big Deal.
For Duke, not having Lance Thomas, who is almost certainly going to sit out with his knee injury, could present some matchup problems.
Maryland starts Landon Milbourne ( 6-7), Jordan Williams (6-10), Greivis Vasquez (6-5), Eric Hayes (6-4), and an under appreciated Sean Mosley (6-4).
Adrian Bowie (6-2), Dino Gregory (6-7) Cliff Tucker (6-6) and James Padgett (6-8) are all solid reserves.
This is precisely the sort of opponent where Thomas is invaluable: he could guard at least three starters and three reserves, all of whom could present matchup problems for some of his teammates.
But of course matchup problems work two ways. Assuming that Duke opts to start Mason Plumlee in Thomas' place, Maryland has some things to figure out as well.
It's not such a bad matchup for the starters, as Milbourne is athletic enough to play against a bigger opponent. However, Williams, though big, is a freshman and hasn't been through Cameron yet. We'll see how he does.
When Maryland turns to Gregory or Padgett, Duke can turn to Brian Zoubek. These disparities will go a long way towards determining the outcome of the game.
But just as critically is the perimeter play. This game probably features the best two perimeters in the ACC.
Duke has the highest scoring trio in the country in Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Nolan Smith.
But Maryland has a solid perimeter too. Vasquez, after a slow start, has had a sensational senior year. His performance against Carolina last weekend was brilliant. Eric Hayes has developed into a solid outside shooting guard, who plays like the coach's son he is. And while Mosley hasn't gotten the attention that the other two have, he is an excellent defender and a solid all around player.
Last year, Duke beat Maryland in the first couple of minutes. That's not going to happen this year.
|.480||Field Goal %||.456|
|.321||3-point FG% Defense||283|
|.717||Free Throw %||.752|
|38.1||Rebounds Against Avg.||33.0|
This team has developed into a smart, hard-edged group that defends very well and is capable of shooting brilliantly.
The statistical profile is actually pretty close, as you can see in the table to your right, but a couple of things jump out at us.
First Maryland's giving up a lot more rebounds than we realized. Second, Duke is defending three point shots at a higher clip than the Terps. And finally, free throw percentage favors Duke, but not by much. And not that any of this matters much.
As is usual with these two, this game comes down to effort and passion, but Maryland does have one significant advantage: since the Virginia game was canceled due to snow, the Terps have had a full week to prep for Duke.
And while this is just a hunch, we can think of a precedent in a previous game. It's not an exact correlation, but it's worth considering.
If you remember, when Shavlik Randolph was trying to return from mono, one of his first games back, if not the first game, was against Maryland. Gary Williams had a simple, but brutally effective strategy. He had a number of big guys, including 7-1 Will Bowers. It was clear very early in that game at Randolph was still very weak. Williams used Bowers as a battering ram, got Shelden Williams in foul trouble, and the game was effectively over at halftime.
In this game, to an extent of the roles may be reversed as Duke has their own version of Bowers in Zoubek.
And finally, while Maryland has an enormous emotional incentive after last year's disaster in Cameron, Duke has a more positive incentive with coach Ks 1,000th game and any number of their predecessors in royal blue watching. Nobody wants to let them down, to let all of that down. Emotion in this game is going to be huge on both sides. It's entirely possible, though, that the deciding factor could be the emotion in Cameron.
Although it seems unlikely that he'll play, Thomas's teammates haven't given up hope that he'll be there.
|The DBR App!|
|The Next Step For DBR|
|DBR Is On Twitter!
|Blue Devil Tip-Off!|