Monday, February 18, 2002

The CourtMaster On Terps Over Duke

Originally posted on

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is now in session, and it's a good time to be a Terp! That's ok, though. It's still a good time to be a Blue Devil.

By now, you've all read in great detail about what happened Sunday in College Park. I'm going to tackle the big question: what does it mean?

For Maryland, the importance of this victory cannot be overstated. This was not a "statement game", as was their victories over #1 North Carolina (yes fans, they used to have a pretty good team in Chapel Hill) at Cole Field House in 1995 and 1998. Back then, the Terps had something to prove by knocking off an elite team. In 2002, they ARE an elite team.

Sunday's victory was important not so much for what it meant to the Maryland program and it's fans (a lot) but for what it should mean to the team in March.

Like it or not, the Terps' success this season will ultimately be judged by how they fare against the Blue Devils. Going 0-2 against Duke in the regular season would have put Maryland at a huge psychological disadvantage in Round III (and IV?).

In the unlikely event that Duke had won on Sunday and then stumbled enough to allow Maryland to win the ACC regular season anyway, that title would have been almost a hollow victory without at least one win over the Devils.

The first 38 minutes of this game bore an almost eerie resemblance to the famous (infamous in these parts) "Gone in 54 Seconds" Duke-Maryland game at Cole last season. Although many of the key players in that game were also on the court Sunday, the teams differed in critical ways from last year's squads.

Maryland is not as quick or deep as they were last season, but they are a much more mature and emotionally stable team. Last year, the loss to Duke sent them into a tailspin severe enough to threaten their NCAA Tournament bid.

This year, the team plays at a much more consistent level, winning all of the games they should along with their share against the top teams. Despite a nervous crowd at Cole on Sunday, the Terps were poised enough to never allow the Devils to get into position to win the game.

Duke is not nearly as good defensively as they were last season. No one has filled the Shane Battier role of being the roaming defensive playmaker, and the Devils were not able to make the key defensive stops against Maryland.

This loss simply means it's back to lab for Professor K. It will be his turn to counter the adjustments that Gary Williams made following Round I. K is such a master of psychology that he can be counted on to turn a good ass whipping into something advantageous for his team.

It will be interesting to see how Duke bounces back physically. Billy Packer correctly pointed out toward the end of the first half that the Devils looked tired (someone must have slipped him a note). Is it time for all of those minutes the starters have played to catch up with them? Will they make it unscathed through the balance of their schedule, which included visits to Wake Forest and Virginia? How much will they have left for Round III in the ACC Championship game, which would be their third game in three days?

Will Duke's success ultimately be measured by how they fare against Maryland? Wouldn't that be ironic?

There was a sad footnote to what should have been one of the more satisfying days in Gary Williams' coaching career. Reports came out after the game that Williams' father had passed away on Saturday, yet he shared that news only with his assistant coaches in order to not distract his team. Instead of basking in the glow following one of the great victories in his program's history, Williams was preparing to bury his father. I'm sure fans across the ACC will join me in sending our condolences to the Williams family.

Let me know what you think on the message board, or send e-mail to

This might not be the best time to bring this up, but I wrote a feature about the history of Cole Field House that will appear in next week's issue of the ACC Area Sports Journal. I hope you take time to enjoy it.

Until next time, court is adjourned.

Thursday, February 07, 2002

The CourtMaster on Anger and Obsession

Originally posted on

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is in session, and it's time to rule on the emotions and feelings that have recently been running rampant through the ACC.

First, I want to address anger. Everyone seems to be angry these days. Coaches are yelling at opposing players and other coaches or just screaming naughty words as they leave the court. Players are yelling at opposing coaches. They are also pushing, shoving, throwing elbows, and hitting other players in the back of the head. The punk quotient is rising to an uncomfortable level.

These feelings have even permeated my humble abode. After tripping over a misplaced laundry basket on my way to late night snuggles with Mrs. CourtMaster, I launched into a Coach K-like tirade. She quickly slapped me with two technicals and ejected me from the bedroom. People, people, people; this madness has got to stop! After all, it's only a game. (I had to write that as a condition for Mrs. CourtMaster lifting my suspension).

It is up to the coaches to set the tone and stop this foolishness. This obviously needs to start with the coaches themselves. If they do not control themselves in the heat of battle and act with maturity, how can they expect their players to do the same?

Is it just me, or did you think Gary Williams and Pete Gillen were ready to rumble during their little "chat" towards the end of the Maryland-Virginia game? I would give the physical edge to Williams in that bout, but Gillen is a native New Yorker so he should be able to hold his own in a fight.

A note to Herb Sendek and Julius Hodge at NC State; the statements of apology would have seemed much more sincere if the disciplinary action had been taken by the school. Instead, the ACC had to drop the hammer. Of course Hodge was provoked. Well guess what, Julius; you're a target now. The whole conference knows they can get you to lose your cool if things are not going your way. If you can't deal with Steve Blake's elbows, you won't last ten minutes in the NBA. You also need to stop shushing the opponent's crowd when you make a basket until you learn to handle adversity. In other words, stop acting like a punk.

Next, I want to rule on "The Obsession." I have been entertained by the recent contributions from mental health professionals regarding Maryland's and Gary Williams' obsession with Duke. It does not require a psychology degree to explain this, merely insight and understanding. Prepare to be enlightened.

First, I wholeheartedly agree that Gary Williams and everyone associated with the Maryland basketball program is obsessed with beating Duke. The reason is very simple. The Terps are very close to reaching their goals; the ACC and national championships. There is one major obstacle they must overcome; those damned Blue Devils.

Every other team in the ACC faces the same obstacle, but schools like Virginia and Wake Forest have to not only climb over Duke, they have to catch Maryland and defeat each other. They are not close enough to the ultimate goal to focus solely on Duke; they have a host of problems to deal with. Not Maryland. They have separated themselves from the rest of the ACC. It's down to the Terps and Blue Devils.

This situation reminds me somewhat of the Celtics and Lakers in the '80's. For several years, it would always come down to those two teams for the NBA Championship. Do you think they were not obsessed with each other? Of course they were.

The passion of the obsession is particularly strong at Maryland because of their history of being close but not grabbing the brass ring. Despite being a strong program for most of the past 30 seasons, the Terps have never been ranked #1 (#2 several times, but not #1); have won only one ACC Tournament in the last 43 years, and just last year reached their first Final Four. There is a strong feeling of "it's our turn" at Maryland and among Terp fans.

I think it is appropriate to point out that this obsession works both ways. Much has been written about Maryland on the DBR and other Duke sites and message boards in situations that have nothing directly to do with Duke. Let's face it, Duke fans can look in the rear view mirror and see a big old turtle right behind and threatening to pull even. Therefore, any opportunity to say anything negative about the Maryland program or it's fans is welcomed as a way to keep the Terps from climbing up on that pedestal Blue Devil fans claim as their own. Fortunately, matters will ultimately be decided on the basketball court and not on the Internet.

This leads me to my final ruling regarding Duke "getting the calls" from referees during games. This just in, Duke does get the calls, and not because of some dark national conspiracy.

Remember back to the early '80's when Dean Smith ruled the roost in the ACC and Coach K was a struggling young coach (otherwise known as the good ol' days in Chapel Hill). Coach K was one of the more vocal complainers about the "double standard" that existed with Smith on one level and the serfs beneath him. If memory serves, El Deano did everything he could to perpetuate that. It was frustrating, wasn't it Blue Devil fans?

Let's move back to today, where another double standard exists. Now, though, Duke is on the favorable side. You don't hear the complaints from Durham now. Instead, fans from Chapel Hill are screaming about the breaks Duke gets during games. Again, this is not part of some conspiracy. It is a fact of life in any sport officiated by human beings.

There are many situations in every sport where a call could go either way. It is an accepted fact that pitchers like Greg Maddux have a wider strike zone to work with than a rookie because of his reputation. It is well known that Michael Jordan is seldom called for traveling even when it looks like he is walking to his mailbox. An All-Pro lineman will seldom be called for holding in the NFL, but a rookie doing the same thing will see the flag. You often hear announcers say that a boxing champion has to be knocked out to lose his title; a challenger will NOT win a decision.

When a player or team reaches the elite status Duke has, they will get the breaks. Carolina did before Coach K was established. When John Wooden was at UCLA, his players usually had to maim someone to get called for a foul in a critical situation. No amount of bitching and moaning will change this, no matter how unfair it is.

I'm glad we've got that straight. Now, can't we all just get along?

Let me know what you think on the message boars or by e-mail at

Until next time, court is adjourned.