Maryland-Duke Preview

Each of Duke’s four trips to the Final Four over the past 13

years have begun with it earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA

tournament.

If it can win an ACC tournament it’s spent more than a decade

dominating, that same path should be available once again.

Looking to bounce back from an ugly loss, the fifth-ranked and

second-seeded Blue Devils try to begin a march to their 10th ACC

title in 13 years in Friday night’s quarterfinal matchup with

Maryland at the Greensboro Coliseum.

A March 3, 2010, loss to the Terrapins was the only one Duke

(27-4) suffered after the end of January, as coach Mike

Krzyzewski’s team quickly rebounded by throttling North Carolina –

beginning a 10-game winning streak that would culminate with the

program’s fourth national championship.

This time, the Blue Devils aren’t heading into the ACC

tournament on a high note. They’ve dropped two of three, including

Saturday’s 81-67 loss to the Tar Heels in a game where the winner

earned the No. 1 seed in Greensboro.

Duke shot 35.5 percent – including 6 of 27 from beyond the arc –

to fall to 0-3 when it hits 40 percent or less of its shots.

“We’re a confident team,” Krzyzewski said. “Just because you

miss shots, it’s not about confidence. Sometimes you miss shots. If

you’re not confident, you don’t take the shots. Confidence is not

our problem. We’re OK.”

The Blue Devils have won the ACC tournament nine times since

1999, but they haven’t been crowned champion as the No. 2 seed

since 2002.

Should they win a third straight title Sunday, they’ll almost

certainly head into the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed. That’s

significant, considering since 1999 they’ve only made it to the

Final Four when starting on the top line.

Shortly after the final whistle blew in Chapel Hill, Krzyzewski

was looking ahead.

“Look, when we get on the bus, we’re 0-0,” he said. “We have to

prepare for the next part of our season . . . This was a big game,

but the upcoming games are the biggest games. The games we will

play in the next few weeks are the biggest and most important

games.”

The loss at Maryland (19-13) in late March a year ago was Duke’s

only one in the series’ last nine games. The Blue Devils swept the

Terrapins this season, winning 71-64 in Durham on Jan. 9 behind 25

points from Kyle Singler and 80-62 in College Park on Feb. 2 thanks

to 22 from the senior.

Singler, who averaged 21.7 points en route to being named the

2010 ACC tournament MVP, has been slumping over the last month.

He’s shot 34.8 percent since Feb. 9, 10 percent below what he shot

in his first 23 games.

Nolan Smith, however, averaged 23.3 points in that stretch en

route to being named the ACC player of the year.

Seventh-seeded Maryland entered the ACC tournament having lost

three straight, but advanced to the quarterfinals with Thursday’s

75-67 win over North Carolina State. Sophomore forward Jordan

Williams, who averaged 21.5 points and 11.5 rebounds versus Duke,

had 16 points and 13 boards against the Wolfpack.

Coach Gary Williams was anxiously awaiting a chance to avenge

last month’s 18-point loss to the Blue Devils.

“We’ll show up, number one,” Williams said. “And then

strategy-wise, that’s between us. So we’ll be ready to play.

Whatever happens (Friday) night, we’ll be ready to play, I

guarantee that.”