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A Good Matchup For The Terps?

Several sources said this week that, odd as it may seem, Maryland might match up pretty well with Duke on Saturday. Those sources also made it clear that the Blue Devils, at least on paper, are the superior team, but they certainly did not believe it would be a one-sided affair.

"Well you know Duke is the same team it always has been," Florida State associate head coach Stan Jones said. "They rely heavily on ball-pressure. They five-man gang rebound. And they try to get you to score out of your normal pattern that you're going to score. That's why Maryland's had pretty good success against them cause their system really keeps people moving and gets good spacing and gets people in situations where they can score on the flex cut. I think Maryland will matchup pretty well because they're playing four guards and that's kind of the way you've got to play to beat Duke cause they're such a perimeter-oriented team."

The Blue Devils operate essentially with four guards, including "forward" Kyle Singler, who most sources agreed doesn't play like a traditional forward at all.

"Well Singler's not really a post man," ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said. "He's a three-man playing the four-spot. He plays on the perimeter and just takes advantage of whatever matchup he's got. So if he's got a bigger guy on him, he can take him out on the perimeter and play pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop. They're going to screen him into the post or something like that, if he can seal off. He's not just going to go down on the low block and they're going to throw it to him and he's going to make a post move."

Landon Milbourne likely will be assigned to cover Singler, which will serve as one of the more interesting individual matchups of the afternoon. Milbourne, sources said, should be able to use his quickness to create an advantage on offense, but when Duke has the ball, it all will depend on where the Blue Devils station Singler.

"I think Milbourne can do a good job with him on the perimeter," Jones said. "I think if Duke tries to exploit anything on the matchup, they'll try to bring Singler into the post off some screens and try to let him post up a little bit more, thinking he may have a bit more of a size and strength advantage over Milbourne."

Another critical matchup for the Terps will be the one pitting Greivis Vasquez against Gerald Henderson, who has been a dominating force of late. In a win over N.C. State on Tuesday, Henderson tallied 21 points on 10 of 16 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. He also recorded five steals and four assists.

"Maryland depends so much on Vasquez to score, I don't know if it takes away from his defensive focus," Jones said. "You take a guy like Gerald Henderson, and a guy like Greivis, when he's focused on something, he can do pretty much any part of the game he wants to at a very high level. If Greivis decides he wants to lock in on Henderson, I think he could do a terrific job on him with his length and his craftiness and his basketball IQ."

And then, of course, there is the matter of guarding 7-foot-1 center Brian Zoubek, who is not a huge statistical producer for the Blue Devils, but still serves as a sizable obstacle down low. Dave Neal will square off against Zoubek, despite giving up about half a foot in height to Duke's big man. Still, that size differential at times will work to Neal's advantage, as well.

"Dave's gonna stretch that Duke defense out and make Zoubek go out on the perimeter and guard him," Georgia Tech assistant coach Peter Zaharis said. "It's gonna be two guys with opposite strengths and we're going to see who's strength is going to win out here. Is Dave going to be able to make some threes and really make Zoubek come out on the perimeter and play him, which might open up some driving lanes for Vasquez and his other teammates, or is Zoubek really going to punish him inside on the offensive glass and make Gary adjust what he's doing defensively with his post players?"

As far as the point guards go, Adrian Bowie likely will match up against Nolan Smith, who is starting for Duke this season in place of senior Greg Paulus. Though Smith and Paulus have their individual strengths, the dynamic of Duke's offense does not change much depending on which guard is in the game.

"I don't think there's really a difference with who's running it, because I think most of the stuff you scout with them is through Singler, so it really doesn't matter which one of their point guards is in," Jones said. "I think it gives them a nice change-up, because Nolan Smith is more of a threat to penetrate off the dribble and Paulus has really improved to be more of a scoring, three-point shot guy. Paulus stretches your defense, and Smith collapses your defense."

There are differences between the way these two programs operate, to be sure. But sources saw more of an opportunity for the Terps to experience success against a like-minded Duke squad than against the larger, more physical lineups of, say, North Carolina or Wake Forest.

"Well, I think from Maryland's point of view they have a really strong perimeter, and that's what they rely on," Zaharis said. "Duke is very similar in that they rely on the perimeter as well, but their perimeter is more reliant on driving and kicking for the three. They do a lot of dribble penetration to open up space to kick it out to their (three-point shooters). Their half-court pressure defense is what creates a lot of their transition baskets. Maryland does more to make it a full-court pressure type of game."

By Steve Yanda  |  January 23, 2009; 10:27 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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