Duke makes its annual trip to College Park and all the jokes about burning couches and water bottles are being dusted off as we speak. There is no way around the conclusion that Maryland fans' obsession with Duke has been an unhealthy one for a long time now. You can hate Krzyzewski and Redick (and certainly Wojo) but you also should respect their consistent excellence. Don't fall into the trap of irrational tribal thinking that anything Duke does is the product of luck or hype. You don't have to like any of the Dukies, or certainly their insufferable fans, but a blind hatred of all things Duke can prevent you from appreciating those things that, to borrow from Pete Gillen, make Duke, well, Duke. After all if you don't respect them at all then why get so excited when Maryland scores a victory?
There isn't much worth remembering about the last Duke game. Maryland probably would have been better off just heading to the team bus at halftime of the 52-76 drubbing. Chris McCray had probably his worst game of the year and combined with DJ Strawberry for 11 turnovers. Their dreadful play in the first half doomed Maryland and made the 2nd half, in which Maryland played Duke even, irrelevant. As we all know McCray is gone. Strawberry will have to play as well as he did against Virginia for Maryland to have a strong shot against Duke. Everyone is worried about JJ Redick and who will guard him now that McCray is out of the equation. They should be focused on who will check Sheldon Williams. As the Georgetown game illustrated without Williams playing well it is very difficult for Duke to win with its imbalanced offense. Williams outscored James Gist, Ekene Ibekwe, Travis Garrison and Will Bowers combined in the last game. If that happens again it doesn't really matter what Redick does on offense.
There are a few bright spots from that loss. Maryland outrebounded Duke 45-37 with 21 of those coming on the offensive end. If the Terps can do that again and finish on some of those putbacks it would be very helpful. Maryland was able to force Duke into 20 turnovers, including 5 by freshman point guard Greg Paulus. Paulus has looked very shaky in close games over the last few weeks and a road trip to the Comcast Center, which will be unlike anywhere he's played all year, may rattle him. If Maryland can keep it close till the end don't be surprised to see Paulus fold in the final moments.
Maryland's gameplan should be simple: don't turn the ball over 29 times like they did in the last game and guard the 3 point line. Do that and it will be a competitive game. Duke has endured three very close games in the last week and a half. Their three victories came by a total of 7 points. They had two grueling home games and a physical and challenging overtime win against Florida State at Cameron. With the Dukies coming off a draining win at North Carolina that saw them squander a large 2nd half lead and then come from behind in the waning moments to win it couldn't set up better for Maryland. I expect Duke to be a little slow and sloppy to start the game and if Maryland can exploit that, unlike in the NC State loss last week, then the Terps will have a good chance for the upset.
With Nik Caner-Medley and Mike Jones playing different roles than they did in the last game the Duke defense will have to make adjustments off of the limited film of the recent games. This gives Gary Williams a slight advantage since he knows what Duke is going to do. I expect Williams to toy with some lineups to exploit favorable matchups, you know Gary is going to pull out all the stops in this game since a victory would likely punch the Terps postseason ticket.