By Chris KnocheCSNwashington.com Contributor
Theres the game and then theres the story.
The game tips off at 9 PM on Wednesday night in front of a national television audience at Comcast Center when the Maryland Terrapins play host to number 5 Duke. The Terps (12-6 overall, 2-2 in the ACC) are coming off of their first two game losing streak of the season and will almost certainly have their hands full with the Blue Devils. Duke is coming off of a bit of a stunnera last second dagger three made by Florida States Michael Snaer this weekend sent the Dookies to a 76-73 loss. The loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium where Duke is nearly impossible to defeat- dropped the Devils into a first place tie in league play with North Carolina and Florida State.
More on the game later
The story will actually take place 15 to 20 minutes before tip-off when former Head Coach Gary Williams will have the court at Comcast Center named for him in long-overdue ceremony. The event is almost certain to turbo-charge the crowd and hopefully his former team- as they take the court against Marylands Public Enemy Number One.
Williams won 461 games (668 overall) as Marylands all-time winningest coach and a National Championship in 2002. He also won one ACC tournament, had 14 NCAA appearances in his last 17 seasons as coach and 7 sweet sixteens while producing a number of NBA players in the process.
Oh yeah, he did it without a whiff of impropriety.
Yet, for a multitude of reasons, many of which have been recited ad nauseum on Terrapin message boards all over the internet, the guy has probably never really had his day in the sun as he should have.
The ceremony should be loud, raucous and special.
How appropriate is it that it should come with Duke in town. Gary Williams, by virtue of his will and passion created this rivalry. Many Maryland fans have come to mark the passage of time in their lives according to MarylandDuke games (i.e. my daughter was born the day after Blake stole the ball from Williams or I moved the night before Gilchrist took apart Duke in Greensboro at the ACC tournament).
That, my friends, is because of Gary Williams and what he built. Its nice that the court will bear his name but if not for the concept of naming rights- the whole building should probably be dedicated to him.
He now passes the torch to his successor, Mark Turgeon. Turgeon and Williams have become fast friends over a short period of time but the bet here is that the new guy is anxious to make his mark in College Park and in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A win against Duke would be a terrific start.
To do so the Terps will no doubt have to play their best game of the season. They have shown that, in stretches, they will compete with anybody and have done it both on the road and at home, where they are 10-1 on the season. Their problems generally lie in that one stretch that they have in every game where they either struggle to score or struggle to defend. Theyre just a lot like most of Division 1 basketball these days when the stars are in line they can beat anybody. A drought here or lack of focus there and, all of a sudden, theyre toast.
Given the pace of the game there will literally be hundreds of plays in the game, any handful of which may very well decide the outcome. That said there are some things the Terps MUST do to win.
Duh, right? Actually, for all the talk about the Devils on defense and their tradition on that end, what they do offensively year in, year out is really impressive. This year they rank 10th nationally in points per game at 80.5 per- low by their standards- and rarely go through long droughts in games. They have a prolific trio of scorers led by freshman Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, each of whom can make big plays.
They also dont defend like guards of Duke past. Each is susceptible to dribble drives and each must be made to play defense.
Next, rebound. Maryland center Alex Len sprained his ankle against Temple on Saturday morning and, as of this writing, has not practiced with the team. While his play has regressed over the past few games, his size and presence will be sorely missed. The Duke starting lineup includes the kind of size with Ryan Kelly and Mason and Miles Plumlee that would be challenging for the Terps even without Len. If they do have to go extended periods without Len, Maryland would be limited to the three man rotation of James Padgett, Ashton Pankey and Berend Weijs. More likely, they may opt to play a smaller lineup that includes Sean Mosley or Mychal Parker as a power forward and force Duke to match up with them. Of course, if they dominate the boards and seize control early, the Terps will not be able to dictate match-ups.
Maryland would also be well served to get some serious help off of their bench. One of the most obvious reasons for their struggles on the offensive end of things is that the ACCs leading scorer, Terrell Stoglin, has had inconsistent help from his teammates this season. The other is Stoglin himself. His absolute belief that he can score at will is the best and the worst thing about watching this team play sometimes. There simply are not many shot-makers like him in college basketball. On the other hand, if he doesnt share the ball, no other teammate can possibly step up to help him. Two players off of that Maryland bench Pankey and Parker- appear to be capable of pitching in on that end of the court but the only thing consistent about their contributions this season is that they have been inconsistent.
Last thingand I know I say this about every game with Duke: You have to be up for the fight. Every game that Duke plays is a Super Bowl. They have it ingrained in their DNA that there are no nights off and it is reflected in their effort. They dont always play well but they always play hard. You absolutely have to willing to meet force with force and respond in kind.
That the Terps are demonstrably better than they were a month ago is undeniable. How they match up with a team like Duke at this point is open to question.
Well see soon enough.