Top Five Teams Ready For Another Showdown
Posted January 16, 2002 5:39 a.m. EST
DURHAM, N.C. — It's hard to determine which matchup is better Thursday night - the teams or the individuals.
No matter how you look at it, No. 1 Duke against No. 3 Maryland is a rematch from last season's Final Four and about as good as regular season college basketball gets.
"I don't look at one school in our conference as our rival," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Maryland's program has emerged to national status to where it can compete for a national championship.
"As a result of gaining that status, a number of the games we've played have been remarkable games because you have very talented players who have high goals playing against one another."
The Terrapins (13-2, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) held double-digit leads in all four meetings against the Blue Devils (14-1, 3-1) last season, only to come away with a 1-3 record.
Maryland ruined Duke's Senior Day by winning for the second straight year at Cameron Indoor Stadium. But Duke beat the Terps when it mattered most.
Nate James' follow shot edged the Terrapins in the ACC tournament semifinals, and the Terrapins blew a 22-point lead to Duke in the NCAA semifinals in Minneapolis that ended their season on a bitter note.
In another meeting, Jason Williams scored eight points in 14 seconds as Duke rallied from 10 points down with one minute left and eventually won 98-96 in overtime.
The game will forever be known by Duke fans as "The Miracle Minute."
As intense as Thursday night's rematch in Cameron is expected to be, both coaches realize a win or a loss in midJanuary doesn't mean as much as one in midMarch.
"There are too many other good teams you play to focus on one team," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We lost to Duke three times last year and got to the Final Four, so Duke doesn't control our year. It might control who wins the ACC, but it doesn't control where we can go at the end of the year."
The Blue Devils don't lose much in historic Cameron, especially under Krzyzewski, who is 269-46 - an 85.4 percent winning percentage - in that arena as Duke's coach.
Both teams believe they're back on track after losses within the last few weeks. Duke was upset at Florida State on Jan. 6, while Maryland lost by 16 points at No. 5 Oklahoma on Dec. 21.
"Everything happens for a reason and maybe that was our wakeup call," Duke's Carlos Boozer said of the one-point loss to the Seminoles. "It might have been the thing this team needed. We got refocused, we've been battling like crazy in practice again. We're not taking anything for granted."
This game features the ACC's top two scoring teams and the ACC's top two individual scorers in Jason Williams and Juan Dixon.
Win or lose, the Blue Devils will have a tough turnaround, playing No. 14 Wake Forest on Saturday.
"We're going to learn a lot about our team," Krzyzewski said. "This is a week where we'll play two teams that could be Final Four teams in Maryland and Wake."
Duke is 16-4 in its last 20 games against Top 10 teams.