Saturday, February 10, 2007

Maryland-Duke: Still the best rivalry in college basketball?

The Maryland-Duke college basketball rivalry has seen better days. Several years ago, it was on top. It had it all -- looks, brains, celebrity friends. It was the pinnacle of college basketball. Lately, however, it's fallen on some hard times.

But unlike Anna Nicole, it's not dead yet. And while it may have its ups and downs, I think it will always be strong. I know everyone else says Duke-Carolina is the best, but for my money, nothing tops Maryland-Duke when they both have their A games.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. And when they renew it tomorrow at Comcast Center, I think it will be a great game despite down years for both programs. Why? Let's break it down, shall we?

I know all the points about why people prefer UNC-Duke. And they're valid. And right now, it probably is #1. They're geographically close, both are original ACC members, both have a ton of accomplishments, extremely impressive alumni rosters, and highly devoted fans. But to me, both programs and fan bases are so complacent, so self-assured, and so entrenched (rightfully, I admit) in the top echelon of college basketball pedigree, that the rivalry feels like two captains of industry making million-dollar bets at the country club over whose gardener can drink the most Jack Daniels. They're playing with monopoly money.

And then there's Maryland. The middle child of the ACC. They're like the awkward new kid at new school. Not a bad-looking kid, smart, but never could quite earn the full respect of its peers either. Had a reputation as kind of a screw-up. But then, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, suddenly it wasn't so new and awkward anymore, and proceeded to exact its revenge. Now things have, shall we say, leveled off. But the mutal dislike is still there. Maryland-Duke, is almost like Yankees-Red Sox--at least before the Sox started buying teams just like their rivals. There's a visceral tone to it that you just don't see with Duke-Carolina. The blood is truly, legitimately bad. There's no back-slapping after the game. Maryland thinks Duke sucks, HATES Duke for being elitist and prissy and emotionless and white bread, and in return, Duke snickers and taunts, looks down on the public school kids, the ACC Johnny-come-latelies, haughtily dismissing the Terps as beneath them. "They actually think they are our equals?!?!?"

Basically, the rivalry is personal and nasty. Anyone who has been to a Duke-Maryland game can attest to the fact that the chants are just a little louder, a little more fierce. There's a malevolent edge to everything. The intensity on every single possesion is heavy in the gym. It has actually hurt Maryland fans, because there's no possible way the crowd can ever get up the way it gets up for Duke, so they don't even try anymore, it seems like.

So it may not be the best right now basketball-wise, but it's hard to top this rivalry in terms of the sheer and unconcealable dislike between the two groups. In any case, here's hoping the Terps break out of their funk and keep the Dookies down tomorrow. If they bring their A game, there's no reason to think they won't. And if they can't bring their A game for Duke, well, we can probably write this season off and start doing other things with our time. Goterps.

Hyperlinks:
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In The Shadow of a Rivalry [Washington Post]
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Duke Sucks [No One Appreciates Me]

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2 comments:

Ian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
i.p. daily said...

I think the game tonight proved you right. The venomous coed energy at Comcast Center fueled a frenzied Terps run in the first half. You knew that Duke wouldn't quit, and when they cut the lead down to single digits late in the second half, Terps fans everywhere started suffering from shortness of breath and hallucinations of Duke's 2001 "Miracle Minute" comeback started flashing before their eyes. Tonight the Terps would not come unglued. They showed poise down the stretch, hitting their late free throws and jump shots, and running a smooth offense through the freshman point guard Hayes. In a month the Terps will travel to the bowels of Tobacco Road for a rematch, and its guaranteed that game will be just as close.