No. 5 Duke faces off against unseeded Maryland today at 6:30 in Baltimore, MD in the second semifinal game. The teams split two earlier matchups with the Blue Devils taking a 9-8 overtime win in the fourth game of the regular season but the Terrapins getting revenge by claiming the ACC Championship in an 11-9 win. Here are the keys to what will be by fare the most important of the three meetings between these teams:
1. Familiarity Breeds...
The easy answer is "contempt" because that's a pretty fair way to describe the Maryland-Duke rivalry (whether or not it's a "real" rivalry depends on which side you're on) and because that's how the saying goes. But in this case, familiarity will allow both teams to make adjustments. It should be an interesting tactical battle and it remains to be seen what effect, if any, meeting twice this season will have on this game. It's worth noting that Duke head coach John Danowski has been incredibly successful in the past in rematches of past losses. In his five years as the Blue Devils' head coach, he has never lost to the same team twice in one season. But his teams have never played an opponent a third time after splitting the first two, either.
2. Home Field Advantage
While technically a neutral field, it's no secret that Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, is a much easier drive from College Park, MD than it is from Durham, NC. Four of Duke's five losses this season have come on the road or at neutral sites. But it's possible that the crowd here at M & T Bank Stadium won't be as partisan as many are predicting for a couple of reasons. More than any other sporting event I've ever attended, there are a huge number of people here who are just fans of the sport. In the first game, goals by Virginia and Denver are both being cheered by what appears to be a majority of the fans. Addtionally, the Blue Devil loyalists seem to have traveled pretty well. While checking out the tailgate action I found a group of about 50 in CJ Costabile jersey-shirts (they were all from his home town of New Fairfield, CT). There will be more people supporting the Terrapins, but it won't be by as many as you might expect.
In the ACC championship game, Maryland faceoff man Curtis Holmes played an unbelievable game, winning 18-of-24 faceoffs. In that game, Duke seemed to be playing better on offense and defense, but the team's failures at the X were too much. The Terrapins' constant domination of possession killed the Blue Devils' early-game offensive momentum, tired out the defense, and prevented any chance of a late-game rally. How Fowler and Costabile (or his replacement if he's not healthy enough to take faceoffs) fare against Holmes will be crucial for Duke in today's game.
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