After the debacle that was the “B-C-Mess,” the NCAA could sure use some good news in the television ratings department. And, if the week to come is any example, the basketball season will give the NCAA at least somewhat of a rebound from what must have been a dismal few days at headquarters at the beginning of the month.
This week’s marquee matchup comes courtesy of the Atlantic Coast Conference, with No. 1 Duke hosting No. 3 Maryland tomorrow. Though Duke sports an overall record of 14-1 compared to the Terrapins’ 13-2 mark, Maryland can jump out to an early two-game conference lead over the Blue Devils with a win at Cameron Indoor Stadium, because of Duke’s inability to handle an inferior Florida State team two and a half weeks ago.
Much has already been written previewing the contest, and many of the self-proclaimed experts are saying that Maryland’s 91-80 road defeat of Duke last year will give them the confidence for tomorrow night’s showdown. True enough. That was a huge game for the Terps last year, and it certainly launched their Final Four run. But let’s not give this game to Maryland just yet.
Duke beat Maryland in three of their four meetings last year, including in the ACC Tournament semifinal and the national semifinal. Bottom line — Duke handled Maryland when the chips were down. But those two losses have the Terrapins out for blood this year, and now the burden is on Maryland to prove they can beat Duke, and it’s a burden they are wholeheartedly embracing. If they can somehow manage that, they will find themselves in the driver’s seat for the rest of the season, controlling their own destiny as of mid-January.
But let’s face it, Duke is flat-out good and still the clear favorite to reign supreme come March Madness. Oh yeah, we shouldn’t forget that Duke’s Carlos Boozer was forced out of that 91-80 loss to Maryland early with a broken foot. Not taking anything away from Maryland’s accomplishment, but you can bet that Boozer will have something to say about the outcome of this game. To date, he is averaging 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per contest.
Maryland’s confidence from last year’s win in Durham, combined with the revenge factor, combined with the Seminoles’ proof that the Blue Devils can be beaten will overcome Duke’s sheer talent. Maryland by a nose, 91-89.
Oklahoma at Kansas, Saturday: The No. 4 Sooners will win a tough one on the road over the No. 5 Jayhawks, for whom this game concludes the toughest week of the year. Oklahoma 85-79.
Indiana at Ohio State, Saturday: This Big-10 showdown is the game that pushed the Yale hockey game at Ohio State, originally scheduled for Saturday, back to Sunday. So it better be good. The 20th-ranked Buckeyes will handle the No. 25 Hoosiers with the help of a sold-out home arena, 86-78.