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Next Up - Maryland

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Next up for Duke is the annual fun trip to Maryland for the standard dose of batteries, heated pennies, and other forms of Terrapin amusement tossed from the stands.

And amidst all that, there could be a pretty good basketball game.

The annual trip to Maryland has become a real test for Duke. It has become the biggest game of the year for the Terps, and this year (maybe it's an annual thing for all we know), apparently unfazed by the fact that the game is on Wednesday, they are having "Beat Duke Week."

Levity aside, after the earlier game in Cameron, Maryland is every reason to be confident, and more so after the St. John's debacle Duke suffered in the Garden.

Or so they are likely to think.

Maryland will certainly come into this game fired up, but Duke tends to come off losses with a special edge, and while Duke fans may enjoy telling Maryland fans that this game is no more important than any other, Duke's players know they're going to get Maryland's best shot.

A brief digression: there's some anecdotal evidence to believe that Duke fans mean what they say about the rivalry with Maryland, and that would be tickets.

For the last several years, just when you would expect that Maryland tickets would be more expensive to pick up outside Cameron, the exact opposite is true: whenever we've had spares, even when both teams are good, we've had trouble giving them away.

Okay, back to the game. Maryland's biggest strength is obviously Jordan Williams, who is one of the better big men around. He typically gets a double-double, although he has a significant weakness with free throws ( he's actually declined since his freshman year).

Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker, Dino Gregory and Sean Mosely are the veteran heart of the team.

Maryland has struggled some to incorporate freshman guards Terrell Stoglin and Pe'shon Howard into the rotation. They could have  probably used  Ashton Pankey, but the young big man is out for the year.  Sophomore James Padgett also plays some, but has not yet lived up to his potential.

Maryland's struggles this season have primarily been offensive, but their defense is capable of generating easy baskets and making up the difference at any rate.

The Terps have a significant weakness from the foul line overall, shooting just 63%  as a team and only Carolina is worse from three-point range.  However, they are excellent at forcing turnovers and they lead the conference in assists.

The free throws might matter; our guess is that adrenaline may help overcome shaky outside shooting.

There's little doubt in other words that Maryland will show up.

How Duke counters when they get metaphorically slugged in the face is what matters. After the St. John's game, Coach K is not going to be a happy camper. It may not be a pretty game, but our guess is that Duke comes out and punches back. And actually, it's more important that they do that than that they win.  Losing a game where you give your all is not the worst thing in the world. And certainly it's not as bad as what happened Sunday.


An uninentionally amusing sidebar is the local media concern over the behavior of Maryland fans. By our count, nine of the links we have found are about behavior off the court rather than play on it.  in an attempt to placate students, the Maryland  administration has decided that it would be a wise idea, win or lose, to start a large bonfire.  We'll have to see how that works out, but pretty clearly there is broad concern about what might happen.

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