Permit me some gratuitous nostalgia. Some 15 years ago, I was the starting point guard for what many consider the greatest basketball team comprised only of third-graders in modern American history. In our 10 games--all victories--we averaged roughly 40 points per game and never surrendered more than 14. While we were busy running plays--I was particularly awestruck by the simple and alliterative genius of the give-and-go (maybe because it ended with me attempting a layup 75% of the time)--the kids on other teams routinely showed up in jeans and Vans.
The point of all this: Not until yesterday did I realize what it must have been like to watch those games, where there exists not only a wide talent gap, but also a wider one of interest. While the Blue Devils flashed more on-court smiles than they have in the last four seasons--there was no "relief" over winning this one--the Terrapins had mentally checked out of the contest sometime late in the first half.
Remember, with just more than five minutes left before the intermission, Duke led 23-11. Roughly 10 minutes of game time later, the Blue Devils were putting the gorgeous Singler-to-Smith-to-Henderson finishing touches on a 37-9 run that built them a comical 60-20 advantage with 15:30 to go.
As much as everyone in Durham would like to make this a story about Duke, the overwhelming conclusion emerging from yesterday's romp--indeed, Emmitt Smith would likely say the Terps "got debacled"--is the decline and fall of Maryland basketball.
When the Cameron Crazies chanted "N-I-T!" at the Terrapins' bench, I couldn't help but think that was being kind. After that kind of performance, Vegas has to have Maryland as the early favorites to take home the CBI title in March.
Is this the final straw for Gary Williams? It's difficult for an outsider really to say, given the historical context behind Williams' resurrection of the program; let's just say record-breaking losses on national television generally don't bode well for job security.
As for Duke, well-done. In my preview for the game, I suggested the Blue Devils may start David McClure in place of Brian Zoubek because Maryland posed no inside threat. It hadn't even occurred to me that Zoubek could be an advantage on the block; it's been so long since we talked about Duke's interior doing anything more than "neutralizing" the opponent. But Zoubek got the Blue Devils off to a quick start, and his offensive rebounds and blocks were integral in the demoralization of the Terrapins.
Jon Scheyer had a better game, but it still isn't where it needs to be for this team to win Wednesday night.
Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson continued their solid and sterling play, respectively, and Greg Paulus was once again a factor coming off the bench.
All in all, this is the part in a sports movie where the coach would say, "It's all coming together" before the montage of highlights leads up to the climactic game. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, this isn't a sports movie, and one of those climactic games is Wednesday--the first of Duke's five games against the conference elite (three of them in the next five contests).