When and Where: Gary Williams Court(!!!) at the Comcast Center, College Park, Md.; game tips at 9:00, but ceremony starts at 8:40
Where to Watch: ESPN, which should also have at least some of the court-naming ceremony in its pre-game coverage
Line: Vegas: -11.5 KenPom: Duke by 13
- The Gary Game. That's how I've been referring to it over the past few months, ever since they decided this would be the first game played on the newly-minted Gary Williams Court. It'll be a heartwarming ceremony, surely, and is a wholly-deserved honor. Hopefully it'll help carry Maryland to an unexpected upset win.
- Trends. Maryland has lost the last three to Duke and has dropped nine of the last ten to the Blue Devils. Also of note: with a hat-tip to Patrick Stevens, the last eighteen games have been decided by a margin of six points or greater. You have to go back to a 75-70 Duke win in February of 2003 to find the last really close game.
- Alex Len. Word is that he'll play after spraining his ankle against Temple, but we have no idea how much or how effective he'll be. You'd think that getting a strong performance out of Len would be critical to Maryland's upset chances.
- Get there (or turn on your TVs) early. Can't stress this enough: the court-naming ceremony begins around 8:40. Be seated by then, or have your TVs on to see whatever it is the four-letter network will show you.
The Opponent (An Overview): Duke is as bad as they've been in years, sure, but that's still not all that bad. They enter the game 16-3 with wins over Kansas and Michigan State. Of course, they also got pounded by Ohio State, lost to Temple in Philly, only beat Virginia by 3 in Cameron, and did just lose to Florida State. All of those teams are much better than Maryland, but it should be an indication that, no, they're not unbeatable. They have really strong play 2-5, but do lack a true point guard. They're still a great offensive unit, but there have been defensive question marks all year, especially in defending the interior and forcing turnovers. They're #2 in RPI, #14 in KenPom, and #10 in Sagarin. They're very fast-paced and rely heavily on the three-pointer, and yes, I know I just described every Duke team of the past decade.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Pe’Shon Howard (So., 6-3)||Seth Curry (Jr., 6-2)|
|Terrell Stoglin (So., 6-0)||Austin Rivers (Fr., 6-4)|
|Sean Mosley (Sr., 6-4)||Andre Dawkins (Jr., 6-4)|
|James Padgett (Jr., 6-8)||Miles Plumlee (Sr., 6-10)|
|Alex Len (Fr., 7-1)||Mason Plumlee (So., 6-10)|
That should be it, unless K really changes things up in the wake of their loss to FSU or Len can't go for Maryland. The obvious potential change for Duke is Ryan Kelly slotting in for Miles Plumlee, but Miles has started the last two so that's what I'm going off. As it stands, the question is (as always) who does Stoglin cover? You'd think he'd slide over and man up with Curry, because you don't want to have him on Rivers (or do you? he has a tendency to get a chip on his shoulder) and Dawkins has too much size. But we'll see. Otherwise, Maryland matches up with that lineup fairly well.
Thank God for getting to the free throw line and offensive rebounds. Safe to say that if Maryland's going to have any shot at this one, they'll need to not only do both of those at normal or higher-than-normal rates, but they'll also need to convert those opportunities more than they've done in the past.
Matchup to Watch: If you're a long-time follower of the blog, you may know that my favorite type of player is the undersized chucker, the little guy with an uncanny basketball sense and knack for getting buckets. Guys like Scottie Reynolds and Dominic James. My least favorite type of player, conversely, is the guy with all the physical tools the undersized chucker lacks, but the same mentality. The player who could elevate his game to unseen heights but instead limits himself by playing at being Allen Iverson. Tonight, these two meet. Terrell Stoglin vs. Austin Rivers. The battle of the chuckers. (Or, *ahem*, "volume scorers.") Please, Terrell, for all that is right in the basketball world, leave tonight victorious.
Prediction: I think most people have come to the realization that Maryland is very unlikely to win this game. I have. But screw it, we're a sports blog and this is the Gary Game and it's Duke at Comcast, so I'll say Maryland by 4 because why not.
Sidenote: because there will be thousands of comments in the GameThread tonight, I'm not going to open it too early. So this is your discussion place for much of the day.