Maryland vs. Duke: Three things to watch

Factors include Maryland's transition defense, Duke's start and the Terps' Bernhardt vs. the Blue Devils' Rotanz

May 26, 2012|By Edward Lee

For the second time in the last two years, these Atlantic Coast Conference rivals will meet for a third time in the season. Maryland is 59-20 against Duke. The two sides split their earlier contests with the Terps winning, 10-7, on March 3, and the Blue Devils returning the favor with a 6-5 decision in the ACC tournament semifinal on April 20. No. 3 seed Duke (15-4) defeated Syracuse, 12-9, in the first round and Colgate, 17-6, in the quarterfinals. Maryland (11-5) upended No. 7 seed Lehigh, 10-9, in the first round and No. 2 seed Johns Hopkins, 11-5, in the quarterfinals. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome of this NCAA tournament semifinal at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday evening.

1) Maryland’s transition defense. Duke’s quick-strike ability on offense is aided by an aggressive midfield and a potent attack. But that unit also gets significant help from an opportunistic defense eager to turn saves and turnovers into transition opportunities. The Blue Devils’ fastbreak chances against the Raiders certainly caught the attention of Terps coach John Tillman. “[T]hey run so well going from defense to offense that a lot of times it’s not so much what you’re doing at that end,” he said. “It’s what happens in the middle of the field or on your offensive end that leads to transition. And that’s where they really seem to carve you up, and they did an outstanding job against Colgate of just getting loose balls and creating transition. They were lethal there.”

2) Duke’s start. The Blue Devils like to play fast and want to play fast. Creating that tempo could be a challenge against Maryland, which is adept at corralling loose balls and dictating the pace on offense. But Duke has outscored its opponents, 64-40, in second quarters this season, including a 7-0 run in that period against the Raiders. ESPN analyst and former Syracuse All-American midfielder Paul Carcaterra said the Blue Devils would benefit from sprinting out of the gate. “If Duke doesn’t have a fast start, Maryland’s going to own possessions and the tempo as we saw against Johns Hopkins,” he said. “Maryland doesn’t want to play fast against Duke. So if Duke goes up by five goals, then they have to play fast. So I think for Duke, a fast start is a no-brainer.”

3) Maryland’s Jesse Bernhardt vs. Duke’s Robert Rotanz. The Blue Devils’ midfield has been fueled by senior Robert Rotanz, whose 38 goals this season are only exceeded by Robert Morris senior Kiel Matisz’s 40 among midfielders in Division I. Rotanz, who has amassed eight goals and one assist in two NCAA tournament games, could get the attention of junior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt, who leads the Terps in groundballs (56) and caused turnovers (32). “Duke’s offense goes as Rotanz goes,” ESPN’s Carcaterra said. “… Rotanz has been on fire, and he’s dodging a lot, too. And Jesse Bernhardt is the best defensive middie in the country. [Loyola junior] Scott Ratliff and [Duke senior] C.J. Costabile run all over the field and make plays, but defending midfielders, Jesse Bernhardt is the best. He’s a beast.”

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