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Next Up - Maryland

Gametime: 6:00 | Venue | Cameron | TV: ESPN | Last matchup, barring ACC Tourney action, before Terps depart for Big Ten.

Seth Allen and Quinn Cook will do battle again
Seth Allen and Quinn Cook will do battle again

After deciding to leave the ACC and 60+ years of tradition behind for Big Money, Maryland fans (and beat writers) sound almost wistful about not playing Duke anymore. Well, first of all, cheer up: you may get one more shot in Greensboro. And second, to paraphrase John Prine as he said in Dear Abby, You have no complaint/You are what your are and you ain't what you ain't/So listen up buster, and listen up good/Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood.

Okay, we're through channeling Bill Walton, but if it's so important to the UCLA of the East, why give it up?

(Interestingly enough, if you had to pick a UCLA of the East, you'd probably pick Duke. Just saying).

Still, people up there seem to be holding on to a wisp of hope. In the Baltimore Sun, Don Markus made this suggestion:

"But here’s hoping that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who knows a little bit about marketing his league, has the foresight to put a little muscle on ESPN in the next couple of years to get a Duke-Maryland game in College Park for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. He might have to wait for Krzyzewski to retire or for the Terps to prove worthy of such a matchup."

He may have missed earlier when Coach K suggested that maybe the ACC didn't need to bother with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge at all anymore since Delaney made it a point to poach Maryland. But if it does continue, expect Duke (and a number of other ACC schools) to quietly avoid playing Maryland, and nobody in their right mind is going to play in Comcast. It's not that it's that tough a place to win, but more that the fans are frankly dangerous.

If you're not required to go there, why would you? It's a vicious venue. Heated pennies, full water bottles thrown, fans of other schools told by ushers to hide under their seats if they win - what do you get out of it? It's a lot to ask.

And we're just guessing here, but we're reasonably sure Duke has little interest in playing Maryland at all anymore, and certainly not at Maryland. So give up on that fantasy. It's not happening anytime soon.

And truth be told, while the fans at Cameron have taunted Maryland for years now with "not our rival" cheers, there's more than a bit of truth to it.

It only gradually dawned on us just how much intensity Maryland partisans were focusing on Duke. And why would we even think about it? Back when Maryland was really good, in the first half of the last decade, when Juan Dixon and Steve Blake formed one of the truly legendary ACC backcourts, from time to time we ended up with an extra ticket.

We literally could. not. give. it. away.

No one cared. No one even wanted a free ticket to see an exceptional team and a really good ACC game. Being discriminating fans, we understood these were likely to be great games and weren't about to miss them.

But even so, we didn't realize that Duke had become the total focus for Maryland. The riots, Mrs. Boozer's concussion, the sick attacks directed towards JJ Redick's school age sister and later the glee that many seemed to take in Nolan Smith's concussion - we came to understand it.

Even so, like a lot of ACC folks we suspect, despite everything, we saw Maryland as family. And when the university said it was loyal to the ACC, not all that long before it said it was leaving, we were really happy. We didn't like the idea of Maryland leaving.

That kind of changed when it actually happened and not so much that it did as the way it happened. There was lying, the state's open meeting laws were flouted, and the decision was made in a very short period of time with minimal input.

So after that, of course, the ACC recruited Louisville. And while Louisville is much farther away, the ACC faces the future with four programs of historical importance. Duke, UNC, Syracuse and Louisville have all been powers since at least the '60s. All of them will have ups and downs, but probably not all at the same time.

It's a tremendous group and will elevate other programs as well.

But what about this game?

Well, Maryland has been making some adjustments lately. With Seth Allen back on the court, the Terps have a solid point guard, which has been an issue all season.

That gives them essentially a three guard lineup with Dez Wells and Jake Layman. Evan Smotrycz, the Michigan transfer, is 6-9 but hangs out on the perimeter a lot (he shot nine threes against UVa).

In the post, Charles Mitchell, who impressed us last year, has moved ahead of Shaquille Cleare, who has not shown significant improvement as a sophomore. In fact, his stats anyway are worse: Cleare's scoring and rebounding are both down and he's only playing 2.4 more mpg than he did as a freshman.

And Maryland seems to be playing tight. A few games ago, Mark Turgeon told his team to quit worrying and have some fun.  Did it take?

Wells may have been making a subtle criticism of Turgeon when he said this about watching the Maryland of Dixon and Blake: "Juan and them took a lot of wild shots, that's just how they played, they just played hard and they did the things that Coach Williams let them do, he let them play free."

We don't remember it quite that way - it was more like disregarding coaching - but he has a point.

And in case you're wondering, it is again a big game for Maryland. As Turgeon told the Baltimore Sun, "What a great deal for us, playing on ESPN versus Duke, the whole country will be watching. If we want to make hay this season, we have a great opportunity tomorrow night at 6 o'clock. … We're trying to represent a lot of past coaches and past players the way they need to be represented."

He went on to say that his team was playing much better and had a lot more confidence than before.

We think that's true. It may be too late for Maryland to do a lot of damage, but it's a team with some real talent and several players who might get hot. Duke has to match what's likely to be an unbelievably high level of intensity to win this one.

One final thought: if Duke is fortunate enough to win, while the ACC! ACC! ACC! cheer/taunt is inevitable, it would be very cool if the Crazies had the wit to whip out the old Amen Chorus, which Maryland used to sing to celebrate a win (they might still for all we know). If you've never heard it, it's here, and you can also see a young, obviously sad Mickie Krzyzewski as her husband's team is about to lose the 1984 ACC title to Maryland.

It would be a nice sendoff for the Terps.