Among Terps' rivals, Duke is ranked No. 1

Basketball: The intensity will be high today in College Park as Maryland and its loyal fans get another crack at the hated Blue Devils.

February 17, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Armed with his video camera, Steve Francis scanned the hallway outside the locker rooms before last week's NBA All-Star Game at the First Union Center in Philadelphia. As he does on the court, Francis was looking for a good shot. Suddenly, Elton Brand of the Los Angeles Clippers appeared in the picture.

"Go Duke," Brand said, flashing a smile and a victory sign.

Francis, the former Maryland star now with the Houston Rockets, grimaced. It was an expression he often wore during his only season in College Park when Brand and the Blue Devils got in the way in what was the beginning of college basketball's most compelling and heated rivalry.

It has grown dramatically in the three intervening years, reaching a crescendo last season when Duke beat Maryland three of four times, including in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments. But in at least one significant way, the rivalry has not changed.

Maryland is still chasing Duke.

When it is renewed today at Cole Field House, all but a small percentage of the 14,500 fans will be rooting for the third-ranked Terrapins to knock the defending national champion and top-ranked Blue Devils off their lofty - and some might say haughty - perch.

But here's something to ponder as the 1 p.m. tip-off approaches: Can Maryland-Duke be considered a rivalry in the truest sense, since the Blue Devils have won four of the past five meetings, including a 99-78 victory last month at Cameron Indoor Stadium?

And here's something else to consider: Is beating Duke, and particularly Mike Krzyzewski, any less an obsession for Gary Williams than it was during the first seven years of his tenure at Maryland? The Terrapins lost their first 12 games to Duke under Williams, and didn't beat a Krzyzewski-coached team until 1996.

Williams has compiled a 4-25 record against Krzyzewski while at Maryland, by far Williams' worst mark against any ACC coach. It shouldn't be just on his shoulders, since the Blue Devils had better players before he arrived and, for the most part, still do.

"No other team has beaten Duke on a consistent basis," Williams said Thursday morning. "The best team in college basketball the past 12 or 13 years happens to be in the same league as we are. People sometimes don't look at the big picture."

There is also a feeling that it is a bigger rivalry for Maryland than it is for Duke.

"When I was at Duke, we had North Carolina or we had Kentucky [in the NCAA tournament]," Brand said. "To us, Maryland was just another big game, but not our biggest rival. I think one of the reasons we had so much success is that they put more into the game [emotionally] than we did."

While the Terrapins have replaced North Carolina as Duke's biggest obstacle for dominance in the ACC, and one of its legitimate challengers for the national championship the past two years, there is little to indicate that the Blue Devils and their fans are phobic about Maryland.

At Cole Field House on Wednesday night, students who had camped out several days for tickets to today's game started yelling, "We want Duke!" with a little over four minutes left in Maryland's 20-point win over Georgia Tech. The chant went nearly unabated until the final buzzer.

At Cameron Indoor Stadium the next night, Duke students yelled, "We want Borman!" with a little over two minutes left in reference to the team's last man, walk-on Andy Borman. With 40 seconds left, there was a brief, "We want Maryland!" chant that was quickly drowned out.

When the buzzer sounded to signal the end of Duke's 37-point win over No. 24 North Carolina State, a lone voice could barely be heard. "Bring on Maryland," said Donald Wine, a sophomore from Farmington Hills, Mich. The Terrapins were not yet on the radar screen around the Durham, N.C., campus.

Asked about the rivalry after the N.C. State game, Krzyzewski said, "Between us and State? Oh, we have a rivalry with the next team we play. We have a rivalry with trying to win a championship, and if you only have a rivalry with one team, that becomes your championship.

"I think Maryland is one of the top two, three best teams in the country. ... For me, I approach every game the same, believe me. That's why this group of kids in the last four years has won 124 games and lost 12. You don't do that by having one rival. You do that by playing your best all the time."

Disdain for Duke

Chelsey Trowbridge is typical of most Maryland students in her disdain, or even hatred, for Duke. It is deep-rooted, going back to when she was growing up in Connecticut, a fan of the homestate Huskies. It began in her family when Christian Laettner beat Connecticut with a last-second shot in the 1990 East Regional final.

"Even UConn got back at Duke in the NCAA tournament," said Trowbridge, referring to the Huskies' upset of the favored Blue Devils in the 1999 national championship game in St. Petersburg, Fla. "And we'll get back at Duke for what happened last year."

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