Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Maryland vs. Duke Pre-Game Hype

Boy do I hate Duke. Everyone who knows me knows this. I am known to randomly taunt people on the street wearing Duke apparel. I nearly refused to rent a truck for my move from the most convenient U-haul lot because the guy behind the desk was wearing a Duke jacket. Why you ask? Well, duh, I went to Maryland! And us Terps have been victims of some of Duke's greatest games the last five years. Including two you may well remember: Jason Williams' 10-points in 56 seconds game, and the Terps' meltdown in the Final Four after leading by over 20 points in the first half. Urge to kill rising. Don't even get me started on the Jeff Capel game-winning three-pointer AFTER time expired at Cole Field House when I was a senior, denying me the only chance I ever had to rush the court.

So every Duke game is big. Yeah, we have a chip on our shoulders. But at least we're not a bunch of lame nerds.

Currently, Duke is #2 in the national polls, while Maryland's exploits can be found by clicking through about 23 screens on Life outside the Top 25 is demeaning.

How did we get here? Let the Washington Post explain:

Maryland Coach Gary Williams saw a warning sign in late December. American outplayed Maryland for one half and Terrapins players acknowledged being complacent and nonchalant.

An isolated incident against an inferior opponent had yet to develop into a pattern. But the coming weeks saw blowout losses against North Carolina and Wake Forest, followed by a decisive defeat at home to North Carolina State on Sunday. Maryland trailed by at least 28 points in each of the games.

The long stretches of non-competitiveness in games have been defined by lax defense and a lack of intensity, according to Williams, who conceded, " It's late in the year for me to be saying that."

Maryland's lack of intensity over stretches sometimes as long as a half is particularly alarming because the Terps were never dominated in such ways in the ACC last season, when they competed with the same cast of players. This season, players were supposed to be a year wiser and more experienced following their ACC tournament title.

Three blowouts in five ACC games does not bode well for the Terps' post-season chances. Fans, a Sweet Sixteen appearance this year is a pipe dream. A mere tournament bid would be something of a miracle at this point. But if we are to shift our focus to the lacrosse season at the conclusion of the ACC hoops tournament, I guess I would be satisfied with an upset win against an undefeated Duke squad.

I'll admit that Coach K is having the coaching season of his career. His boys are a collection more typical of a Gary Williams Maryland team than Duke's usual assortment of McDonald's and Parade All-Americans. Gary himself acknowledges as much:

"This was probably the lowest-rated Duke team in a while at the start of the year, and they had the mentality of, 'OK, we are going to show everybody,'" said [Maryland Coach Gary]Williams, whose team will need to defend the perimeter better than it did Sunday when the Wolfpack hit 12 of 26 three-point shots. "It really shows in the way they play. I haven't seen a game where they weren't really ready to play."

This statement, coming from Gary, is somewhat sad. You can tell how painful it is for Coach Williams, who wrote the book on motivating lesser talent, to speak about his biggest rival in terms that are usually reserved for himself. It sounds almost as if he is admitting that this season he has lost the battle to inspire his troops, and is instead highlighting for his own players what they could have been had they played with more passion and a greater sense of urgency. Gary spoke last week about how some of his players were "resisting" him. A coach who loses the respect of his players will not win games, nor will the kids who take the court. Part of being a team player is trusting the coach, system, and teammates. Despite being one of the outstanding coaches in the ACC, one with a national championship under his belt, selfish players on this year's squad seem to believe they know better than their coach how best to run the team. You see the results: an 11-5 record early in ACC play, with nothing but tough teams remaining on the schedule in the loaded conference.

Despite the dysfunction, a Maryland win tonight would be enough to ease some of the pain of this basketball season, much like our meaningless, first-time win against Florida State took the edge off an otherwise depressing football season.

So let's hope the Terps stick it to Duke and all of its students and bandwagon jumping fans.

(And finally, I love it: "Unfortunately, the game is in Durham this time around...and those obnoxious pre-meds will be smurfing it out along the baseline in blue." Urge to kill rising again.)


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