The Duke Blue Devils have a showdown looming with the currently top-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
But they cannot afford to look ahead to that game, because tomorrow at noon they must first play host to the Maryland Terrapins—a team that never plays at a higher level than when they face Duke.
Maryland, like Duke, is a team without an established presence at the five-spot. The two players on their roster listed as centers average a combined 2.7 points and 3.8 rebounds a game. Like Duke, they rely on a guard-oriented lineup and pressure defense.
Point guard Greivis Vasquez leads the Terrapins in points (17 per game), assists (4.8 per game), and rebounds (six per game). But even though he leads the team in all three categories, he gets plenty of help from junior forward Landon Milbourne and sophomore guard Adrian Bowie, both of whom average double-figure scoring.
The Terrapins have been a tough team to figure out this season. They defeated Michigan State by 18 points, then lost their next two games (Gonzaga and Georgetown) by a combined 49 points.
Following the Georgetown loss, they reeled off seven straight wins, including a win over Michigan, the only team to defeat Duke thus far this season.
Following those seven wins, they inexplicably lost to Morgan State (ranked 160 by kenpom.com), at home. Following that, they defeated Georgia Tech at home, then dropped two Florida road contests, at Miami and Florida State.
They bounced back from those losses with an 84-78 home win over Virginia on Tuesday night, and must now go back on the road, to a notoriously hostile arena.
Given how unpredictable this Maryland team is, it is hard to predict how tomorrow's game will play out. One thing is certain though, unlike most opponents, Maryland seems to thrive in Cameron.
Greivis Vasquez in particular loves to rile the infamous Cameron Crazies up. Case in point, he was recently quoted in the DC Examiner as saying, "That's my house. I love going in there. It’s going to be fun.” (link)
I think the best individual matchup in this game may be Greivis vs. the Crazies.
Keys to the game for Duke:
- Don't overlook the Terrapins.
- Ball pressure on Vasquez
- Control the boards
The first point needs no elaboration. If the UNC/Boston College game didn't prove that you simply can't overlook any ACC opponent, then Wednesday's Wake Forest-Virginia Tech game certainly did.
The Singler-Milbourne matchup will likely be a wash, with neither player greatly outplaying the other.
The only other player on Maryland's team capable of matching the kind of offensive output that Gerald Henderson will likely bring to this game is Vasquez.
So if the combination of Nolan Smith, Greg Paulus, and Jon Scheyer can keep the pressure on him and force him to make mistakes, Maryland will simply not be able to score enough points.
Finally, Duke needs to control the boards. They have done a very good job of this for most of the season, and Maryland is not a very big team. This is a game where either Brian Zoubek or Kyle Singler could pull down 10-plus rebounds. No one on Maryland's roster stands out to me as someone who can do that in this game.
It wouldn't surprise me to see Maryland keep this game close, possibly even having the lead for quite a bit of time. But in nearly every game this season, Duke hits a spurt of about eight to 10 minutes where they simply take the game over.
I think we see that run midway through the second half, and Duke pulls away to a fairly comfortable margin of victory.
Final Score: Duke 83, Maryland 66