Duke-Maryland may not be the biggest rivalry in the ACC. Yet Duke-Maryland may have been a far more important game this week than Duke-North Carolina, of all things. That can happen in a year where the Tar Heels have collapsed, and the Terrapins have finally emerged as the ACC’s second best team. Of course, when the regular season is said and done, the Terps still have a chance to be the best team. The Duke-Maryland showdown kept that possibility alive with the Terps’ 79-72, and may have done more than that for the Big Dance.
The Blue Devils could have clinched the ACC regular season title with a win, after having led the standings comfortably all year. Instead, Maryland got an upset win on Senior Night to tie for the ACC lead, as both teams are 12-3.
Although the Duke-Maryland game was only the second biggest of the night, after Kansas State-Kansas, it became the most noteworthy. The Terrapins struck first with an early big lead, but the Blue Devils kept hitting threes’ to come back. However, the home team finally clamped down, as Jordan Williams and Gary Vasquez hit big late shots.
The Duke-Maryland upset led the Terrapin faithful to storm the court – even though they are a ranked team and perhaps it wasn’t a huge upset that they won at home. The rowdiness didn’t end there, as fans stormed the street and got into confrontations with police. Snowballs and ice were allegedly thrown at the cops, and 27 people wound up getting arrested.
The celebration put an ugly asterisk on a big night for Maryland basketball. Yet the victory was a breakthrough, as the Terps further solidified their NCAA seeding, and could move up to a five or four seed – perhaps even higher if they win the ACC tournament.
After a year in which the Blue Devils were well ahead of the ACC, the Duke-Maryland game finally tightened up the standings. Still, Duke has the tiebreaker, and can get the conference’s top seed with a win over weakened North Carolina. If they can’t, however, Maryland just needs to beat Virginia to get the regular season title.
On a grander scale, the loss may have hurt the Blue Devils’ chances for a number 1 NCAA tournament seed. Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse have three top seeds locked up, yet no one seems to want the final seed. Duke, Kansas State, Purdue and Villanova have had chances, but all have lost over the last week.
Given the Blue Devils’ stature and resume, they may still be the favorite. However, their recent NCAA tournament history has been shoddy – and the Duke-Maryland game serves as another warning for how fast they can fall.
Baltimore Sun- “What a rush: Terps deny Blue Devils”
Sporting News- “Maryland Fans Storm the Floor, Then the Streets, As Per Custom”
Washington Post- “Maryland-Duke rivalry continues to be one of the best in college basketball”