Conference bragging rights, street security, pepper spray and furniture sales and a fleeting rivalry lasting little more than a decade are all on the line Saturday evening in what could be Maryland’s final home game versus Duke as a member of the ACC.
No singular perk at stake, however, offers more motivation to the Terrapins than the right to keep their postseason résumé out of the trash bin for at least another day. Mark Turgeon’s team won’t only be playing to prod the Blue Devils one final time at the Comcast Center or give students a reason to riot. His Terps will be fighting for their endangered tournament lives.
Maryland will greet Duke at a level of desperation few 17-7 high-major teams ever experience. The Terps are still in search of a second quality win to back the team’s one-point victory over NC State. Their next best win to date is a seven-point squeaker over Stony Brook. Seriously. Were it not for a last-second tip-in by Alex Len against the Wolfpack, the Seawolves (RPI No. 86) would headline the list of Maryland’s best wins. A 20-point thumping of Northwestern on the road in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge no longer looks as strong as it once did.
Saddled with a 2-7 record versus the RPI Top 100 which has the Selection Committee rightfully leery of its credibility, Maryland is in dire need of a signature win — something the Turtle Spearers from Durham can provide. The strength of schedule, flagging conference profile and advanced statistics all work against Maryland’s dreams of the Big Dance. That’s where a win over Duke — an instant credibility maker — can save the day.
The Duke-Maryland feud over the last 15 years hasn’t been light on acrimony on the court or in the stands. But on Saturday, Maryland’s adopted bitter rival could become its saving grace, a potential buoy for the school’s sinking tournament prospects.
Somewhere, Gary Williams is sweating just thinking about those twisted implications