Duke (25-4) vs Maryland (21-7)
College Park, Md. - Comcast Center
TV: ESPN / Tip: 9:00 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: ACC Nickname: Terrapins Colors: Red, Yellow, White Head Coach: Gary Williams (21st season) Career Record at Maryland: 436-236
Projected Starters: 5 Eric Hayes (6-4, 185, Sr.) – 10.9 ppg, 3.9 apg 14 Sean Mosley (6-4, 210, So.) – 10.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg 21 Greivis Vasquez (6-6, 200, Sr.) – 19.5 ppg, 6.4 apg 1 Landon Milbourne (6-7, 205, Sr.) – 13.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg 20 Jordan Williams (6-10, 260, Fr.) - 9.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg Key Reserves: 24 Cliff Tucker (6-6, 205, Jr.) – 6.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg 22 Adrian Bowie (6-2, 190, Jr.) – 4.2 ppg, 1.6 apg 35 James Padgett (6-8, 225, Fr.) – 3.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg 33 Dino Gregory (6-7, 230, Jr.) - 4.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Story Lines For Maryland:
How They Got Here:
Duke, if you believe the preseason predictions and polls, is right where they were supposed to be: playing for an ACC regular season championship. Maryland? Well, the Terrapins weren't picked to challenge the Blue Devils (or North Carolina), and yet here they are. Gary Williams' scrappy bunch has won six of seven with the only loss being a 21 point defeat at the hands of Duke in Cameron. Of course, Duke hasn't been as dominant on the road this season, and Maryland enjoys one of the most feared home courts around.
Saturday's game will be the 167th time the two programs have met. Duke holds a 106-60 advantage and has won six straight meetings and eight of the last 10. Under head coach Mike Krzyzewski the Blue Devils are 48-20 against the Terrapins. In games played in College Park's Comcast Center the Blue Devils enjoy a 4-3 all-time series lead on the heels of winning three of the last four games played at the arena.
It will be Maryland's senior night - upping an already charged atmosphere - and the Terps have build momentum after defeating Virginia Tech 104-100 in double over time in Blacksburg in their last game out. The win gave Coach Williams the distinction as just the third coach in conference history to win 200 league games.
Both teams appear to be healthy heading into this contest.
A Title On The Line
Historians will tell you that the ACC Champion is the team that wins the ACC Tournament. However, there's something to be said for grinding out 16 conference game and coming out on top. It's something this senior class has never done. That can be reversed if the Blue Devils can win on Wednesday night. Duke is riding an eight game win streak and sits at 12-2 in the ACC. Maryland has won five straight and sits at 11-3. The teams have secured the top two seeds in the upcoming ACC Tournament - though the order is not yet shaken out. With just two games remaining, a Duke win will secure the ACC Regular season title.
With a win Duke will have won its eighth such title in the last 14 years. It would also be head coach Mike Krzyzewski's 12th time finishing atop the ACC standings which would up that total by one over his 11 ACC Tournament Championships.
Strong Play On the Ball:
A key to the success in College Park this year has been the stellar play of the Terrapin backcourt. Not only can the Maryland guards light it up from behind the arc - they've hit at least one three in 383 consecutive games - they can also distribute the basketball and dictate scoring from all five positions. Current the Terps rank first in the ACC in assists per game (16.8) and second in turnover margin (+3.4). The team is the ACC's best in assist-to-turnover ration at 1.4/1. And, 22 times this season, Maryland has recorded more assists than their opponent.
On a national level the Terps rank ninth in the country in assists per game, 13th in assist-to-turnover ration, and 24th in American in turnover margin. Maryland has limited the number of turnovers to 10 or fewer 11 times this year.
Two Newbies To Know:
The old saying about the best trait freshmen possess is that most of them turn into sophomores. Rare is the first year player who can come into an ACC program and make a huge impact. But that's just what has happened in College Park in the form for 6-10, 260 pound newcomer Jordan Williams.
The freshman leads the team and is sixth in the ACC in rebounds per game (8.6) and has made his living primarily on the defensive boards (156 of 234 rebounds) which has helped his team limit opponents to one possession. 21 times he's led the team or tied for the lead in rebounds. Last time out he pulled in a career high 15 boards against Virginia Tech.
Recently Williams has been making an impact on more than just the board. Over the last five games he's averaged 13.2 points while shooting 58 percent from the field.
Similarly, sophomore Sean Mosley has taken a big leap from his freshman campaign. He's now tied for third on the roster in points per game (10.9) and has hit 10 or more points in 15 games including the last two contests. For the season he's hitting a very efficient 55 percent from the floor while hitting the boards from the wing at a 5.5/game clip.
Gary Williams doesn't often have teams who back down from challenges. Despite a recruiting strategy that routinely fails to bring in top 20 players each season, the program has been a staple among the upper echelon of ACC teams over the last 10 years. During that time the Terps rank third (behind Duke (138) and North Carolina (114)) in regular season conference wins. And, while trailing those two programs, the Terps have managed to post the conference's best mark (20-28) against the two traditional powerhouses for that time period.
It's a credit to Williams' toughness which he instills in each team. Since Williams took over, Maryland has routinely faced off against a national schedule. It's resulted in 71 wins over top 25 opponents including this year's only such victory (77-68 over then No. 18 Florida State). No active coach has more wins over the nation's top ranked team than Williams who has taken down No. 1 seven times. And under his guidance the Terps have beaten top five opponents 19 times and top 10 teams 33 times.
Watch Out For...
Make that Vasquez on senior night with a chip on his shoulder in a showdown with Duke's Jon Scheyer to see who claims the ACC Player of the Year award.
There can be little doubt that the Venezuelan has been one of the most polarizing, yet effective players in recent memory. Though he's not considered overly athletic for a combo guard, the 6'6 senior always seems to fill up the statsheet. A season ago he led the Terps in minutes (34.6 mpg), FG (210), FGA (522), 3FG (64), 3FGA (198), FT (111), FTA (128), rebounds (5.5 rpg), assists (5.0 apg), steals (1.41 spg) and points (17.5 ppg).
This year he's been even better. He currently is on Maryland career lists in points (3rd), assists (2nd), steals (8th), FG (6th), FGA (2nd), 3FG (2nd), 3FGA (1st), FT (6th) and FTA (10th). Vasquez is the only player in league history to record 2000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds in his career.
Vasquez is averaging 22.2 points in his last 20 games, with the first 7 in that stretch being the streak of games with at least 20 points... He's hitting .468 from the floor and .404 from 3-point range in his last 20 games. He's also leading the conference in assists per game (6.4/game).
As if that's not enough, he enters senior night fresh off a career high 41 against Virginia Tech in which he scored 33 points after halftime to help Maryland stay in the hunt for the regular season title.
It's odd to say, but the current Duke senior class has yet to win an ACC regular season title. For many fans that seems foreign after the Blue Devils seemed to have a permanent residence atop the standings at the turn of the century. Since that time Duke has suffered its share of bad breaks and unlucky bounces. From early departures to players not showing up to a lack of senior leadership year in and year out. Either way this year's team controls its own destiny. It won't be easy, however. The Blue Devils are walking into a hornet nest. The Duke-Maryland game - especially games played in Maryland - is always emotionally charged, but this time there will be added emotion as Vasquez and two other players say their goodbyes in their final home game. The Blue Devils may be able to use that to their advantage as Vasquez at times allows his emotions to interfere with his decision making and can take his teammates out of the game. Look for Duke to weather the storm of emotion early and go into halftime down a bucket or two. The second half could help this group of fourth year players define part of their collective legacy.