It is bizarre that an important time in Maryland football history is being interrupted by the basketball team. Since I can remember, it has always been the other way around; if football has ever really interrupted basketball at all. Although it's absolutely a welcome respite from what has been a coaching search that was about as crazy as it gets, despite of how may you feel about the outcome.
But alas, it’s Duke week. And perhaps even more importantly, it's a time in the schedule for the Terps that will make or break their season. The next four games feature three straight road contests against No. 1 Duke, Wake Forest, and No. 7 Villanova followed by a battle at home against an underachieving yet talented Virginia Tech squad.
Yet, we all know you take it one game at a time -- especially when that one game is against the top ranked team in the country; and oh yeah, possibly the most hated team in the state of Maryland outside of the Cowboys.
First, let’s focus on the Blue Devils. Admittedly, they’ve been spectacular this year. They’ve lived up to their billing thus far, winning their games by an average of 26 points. Fortunately for the Terps, Kyrie Irving (the freshman who was so “super-scintillating-sensational” that he continuously made Dick Vitale change his dandy diapers) has little to no chance of playing due to injury.
Everyone knows the face of the “Dookies”, Kyle Singler, who is having another solid season averaging 17.4 points and 5.9 rebounds. However, so far this season Duke’s butter has been churned by senior guard and Maryland native Nolan Smith who has exploded in the absence of everyone’s favorite poster child Jon Scheyer. Smith is averaging 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists with fantastic shooting percentages.
Aside from Duke’s star players, it’s a different player who is flying a little under the radar that worries me the most. Even though he’s only been putting up 7.4 points per game to this point, he’s shooting 89 percent from the charity stripe and 45 percent from beyond the arc. And yes, he’s a Curry.
Even with all of the talent and hype, I like Maryland’s chance to go into Durham and trip up the giant. Statistics and individual performances aside, the Terps seem to have put their three-week reprieve to excellent use. In their matchup against Colgate last Tuesday, the Terrapins played their best game of the season. I’m not talking in terms of stats, but instead in terms of their overall game play as a team.
It was the first time this season that the Terps seemed to play a full 40 minutes of great team basketball. Everything seemed to run through their excellent defensive play. They rotated beautifully, communicated very well and crashed the boards better as a team than they have all season. All of which helped stifle Colgate’s offense, leading to great offensive possessions for the Terps.
Maryland’s defensive intensity carried over to their offensive performance. Not only were their fast breaks much more effective as they ran the floor and filled their spots brilliantly, but it was the best I’ve seen them run the flex offense all season. After starting the year looking timid and lost offensively with lazy cuts and sloppy passing, the Terps looked crisp and confident in everything they did Tuesday night. I understand it was all against a 1-11 Colgate team, but I couldn’t have picked a better time for the Terps to post their best game of the season heading into the meat of their ACC schedule.
Of course, the turnaround started once Gary Williams changed up the starting lineup to include either of his freshman point guards and move Adrian Bowie to the point. The mastermind has done it again.
This brings me to my most important player against Duke – Terrell Stoglin. There will inevitably come a time when the Terps are in a rut offensively, Jordan Williams is either being triple-teamed or catching his breath on the bench, and they will need someone to step up offensively. While he reminds you that he’s a freshman a little too much for my liking, Stoglin has been the most fearless player on the court for the Terps this season and the only one who has been willing to try and take over a game by himself. He also seems like the kind of player that shines when the spotlight is brightest.
If nothing I’ve said so far inspires you to believe the Terps have a realistic shot at winning in Durham on Sunday, I have one question for you. Who is the one coach in the entire country that you would want to put together a team to go face not only your rival, but the number one team in the country? Regardless of who you root for, I’d be EXTREMELY surprised if the answer wasn’t resoundingly Gary Williams. He’s beaten the top ranked team in the country seven times during his career, more than any other active coach in the country.
My prediction: 79-73 Maryland, lead by yet another double-double for Jordan Williams and a 16-point effort from Stoglin.
What is your prediction for the rivalry game Terrapin Nation? Do you think as I do that the Terps have a great shot to win in Durham, or does Duke bring a little too much firepower for Maryland to handle? Let’s hear what you think.
| January 7, 2011; 9:05 AM ET
Categories: Rick Nelligan, Terps | Tags: Rick Nelligan, Terps
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