Here we go again. The Dukies are coming to town. I am always saying the team, students, alumni, everyone makes too big of a deal out of beating Duke. Well throw that out the window for once. This game has major post season implications, and is huge. Win this one, and you can start to realistically think about going to the big dance. I think a lot of us have started to let that thought wander into our minds, but don’t really feel it is any sense of a lock. Beating Duke will serve notice the Terps are for real.
Now there is one problem with all the excitement surrounding the program after the UNC win. We played Duke one month ago today, and suffered one of the most embarrassing losses of the Gary Williams era at Maryland. They were outclassed in every way. To be quite honest, most of the team looked and played scared. Now things have changed since then. Duke seems to have come back to earth a little bit after that win going 4-4 since. Most importantly they are 1-3 on the road (0-3 in the ACC on the road) with the win coming at St. Johns. Maryland on the other hand has gone 4-3 since then. Also, they are 3-0 during that stretch when wearing the Bias era gold uniforms. I am not a gambling man, but if someone wanted to bet me the Terps were going with anything other than the gold, I would bet the ranch.
Both teams have made some changes to the lineups since the last match-up. The Terps have been starting Sean Mosley, and bringing Eric Hayes off the bench. The other noticeable change has been the increase in playing time for Cliff Tucker. After another career high performance against UNC, look for Tucker to play a big roll in the offense. Please Gary, ride the hot hand for once! Duke has also made a lineup change, Not only has Jon Scheyer taken over at the point for Nolan Smith, but Freshman Elliot Williams has been starting. He is an energy guy, that plays pretty tight defense. He will give our ball handlers fits, if they play like they did against Duke in January. It also appears to me, that Greg Paulus has been getting more minutes. Zoubek who was a big mismatch for Dave Neal in the first meeting, did not play in the Wake game, and only 4 minutes in the St. Johns game. It seems Duke is going small again and will rely on the three and the athletic ability of the always improving Gerald Henderson.
I think the key for the Terps has to be poise. They need to be strong with the ball on the dribble. They looked visibly shaken with the pressure at Cameron. They can not pick the ball up as soon as they get it across mid court. Tucker, Hayes, Mosley, and Vasquez have to help Bowie, or whoever is going to be the ball handler. They need to be ready to quickly reverse the ball when Duke tries to trap across midcourt. Another big shooting night for the Terps won’t hurt either.
Well the excitement is here. The team we all love to hate is here. A chance to make a real statement to the tournament committee is here. The question is, will the Terps be able to keep the momentum rolling after the big UNC win. WIll there be a hangover? Can Vasquez deliver another performance like Saturday or will it resemble something like his game at Clemson? Check back tomorrow morning for a few last minute stats. Is it 9:00 Wednesday yet? If you are lucky enough to go, have your voices rested. Start drinking tea, or what ever it is your supposed to do when your voice is strained. I want Comcast to be rocking like it was in the last half of the UNC game. Until then Go Terps!