Silver Chips Online ACC Championship Preview

March 14, 2004, midnight | By KC Costanzo | 20 years, 3 months ago

Just when it looked like the Duke-Maryland rivalry was beginning to cool off, Maryland goes and upsets two of the top seeds in the ACC Tournament to reach the championship game. Maryland will be looking for a little revenge today after losing both regular season games against the Blue Devils. With a team as tough as Duke, they're unlikely to have much success. Silver Chips Online takes a look at both teams just prior to tip-off.

#6 Maryland (18-11, 9-9)

Before the start of the ACC Tournament, the Terps had to be a little nervous about getting into the NCAA Tourney. Sure they had handed NC State its first home defeat all season long just a week earlier and sure they had a few other top 25 wins, but in the world of at-large bids, nothing is certain. Following two huge wins in the quarter and semifinals over Wake Forest and NC State respectively, however, Maryland has nothing to worry about. Maryland came back from 21 points down to beat the Wolf Pack and make ACC history. A team that can make up a deficit that large in one half of basketball certainly isn't a team to be taken lightly.

Player to watch: John Gilchrist. Averaging 19.8 points over his last five games, no one is hotter than this sophomore guard. He played the best game of his career against NC State in the semifinals, dropping 23 points on the Wolf Pack in the second half on his way to 30. While he isn't yet the leader Steve Blake was, he's the team leader in scoring and assists and has developed into the Terps' most important player. If Gilchrist gets into foul trouble at any point in the game, the Terps may be sunk.

Bottom line: Maryland has already lost twice to Duke this season. The first meeting between the two was close, but away from Maryland's home court, the Blue Devils waxed the Terps by 23. Maryland will likely be tired to start the game after their battle with the Wolf Pack, so they'll have to conserve energy by subbing frequently. Look for Nik Caner-Medley to have a big game after scoring only four in 25 minutes yesterday. While he's been slumping a bit of late, he's good inside the paint and at times gives the team a boost with an unlikely three-pointer. Jamar Smith will have to come up with a big game if the Terps want to stop Duke's inside game and grab some much needed offensive boards.

#1 Duke (27-4, 15-3)

Last season, Duke managed only a three seed in the NCAA Tournament and got bounced in the Sweet Sixteen, concluding what Blue Devils fans considered a disappointing year, but what nearly ever other team in the country would call an unmitigated success. This isn't all that surprising for a team with a history that includes three national championships since 1991 and five ACC Tournament Championships in as many years. Expectations are high, and with good reason. Duke ended the regular season on top of the ACC, this year's toughest conference from top to bottom with as many as seven teams and no fewer than six headed to the NCAA Tournament. Anything short of finishing up with two victories in San Antonio this April will leave the Dukies unsatisfied.

Player to watch: Chris Duhon. The lone starting senior on the Blue Devils has finally settled into his role as team leader. He was shaky the last two years, unable to take his game to the next level and, in some respects, losing some of his touch. Something must have clicked for him this season because he looks like the star he was expected to be after a stellar freshman year. Duhon has made big baskets to finish off teams several times this year and with tough opponents from here on out, that ability is priceless.

Bottom line: Duke is without a doubt the team to beat, boasting 14 wins over teams in the RPI top 50 and a record 17 straight victories in the ACC Tournament. The Blue Devils can get it done from the inside and the outside, something Duke hasn't been able to say in recent years. Should J.J. Redick have an off performance from beyond the arc or if jumpers aren't falling for Daniel Ewing, all the Blue Devils need do is dump the ball inside to Shelden Williams, Shavlik Randolph or Luol Deng. And don't overlook that Duke defense which has been shutting down teams all year long. Williams shot-blocking ability has been huge and the team has come up with key steals to begin game-breaking runs all year long. The Blue Devils rolled over Georgia Tech yesterday and should be well rested for this match up.

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KC Costanzo. Keith "KC" Costanzo is one of the brand-spanking-new editors-in-chief of <i>Silver Chips Online</i>. His responsibilities include maintaining the journalistic integrity of the paper and making sure no one spontaneously combusts due to the stress of deadlines. KC enjoys late night frisbee games and long hours … More »

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