Ending the rivalry drought? Duke vs. Maryland projected in the NCAA Tournament

Maryland and Duke haven’t played each other since the Terps left the ACC, largely because of the now-retired Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski refused to schedule the Terps out of spite after they left the ACC for the Big Ten.

“This is an assault on tradition,” Krzyzewski said at the time, via The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg. “The quality of athletes on the court and then the atmosphere that they were able to play in really brought out some special moments [during Maryland-Duke games] … You can’t just say you’re going to replicate that in another conference right away. That was already there. It was established over a period of time, and that won’t happen again.

“That’s not gonna happen again, because we’re not gonna schedule them. It’s tough to schedule anybody when you have 18 conference games. But when we schedule non-conference, it’s usually outside of our conference area, so that we play national teams .”

It remains to be seen if the new Duke coach Jon Scheyer will have a different mindset about scheduling Maryland. It’s safe to say most Maryland fans would be excited, though, if the two were to meet up in the NCAA Tournament. That’s the matchup in the Field of 68‘s first bracket projections.

The site has the two facing off in March, with Duke the No. 6 seed in the West Region and Maryland the No. 11. Of course, projecting matchups this early is a blind guess, but the committee always looks to create intriguing storylines in the bracket and few would be more compelling than a game between two programs with a history of legendary battles and a strong dislike for each other.

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An NCAA Tournament matchup between the two would usually be impossible, because Duke is a perennial high seed playing a non-power conference team in the first round. But the talent-laden Blue Devils, ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP Poll, are 14-6 overall and 5-4 in the ACC, unranked and eighth in the ACC standings. Maryland (12-7 overall, 3-5 Big Ten), which wasn’t projected as a tournament team heading into the season, is clinging to the good side of the bubble, seeded in the No. 9-11 seed range in most current projections.

Missing a natural enemy to hate in the Big Ten, Terps fans have hoped to play Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It never happened, with rumors persisting that Krzyzewski pushed to avoid Maryland in the event.

“That would be the only way it would be done, because we won’t schedule Maryland,” Krzyzewski said in 2014. “And there’s nothing to that, just that it doesn’t work out for us to do that. That’s the only way it would happen, if they continue the Big 10-ACC.”

But they discontinued the event after this season’s installment, probably because ESPN didn’t get a piece of the conference’s newest TV rights deal. Maryland coach Kevin Willard said in November that he’d like to schedule Duke. He said yes, but he was doubtful it would happen.

“Probably never,” Willard said. “And it’s not me or Jon. I know Jon very well, he’s a good guy. The problem with college scheduling is, you know, we don’t control a lot of our schedule. They play in the Champions classic, they’re in Maui. They have the ACC-Big East Challenge, they have the ACC-SEC Challenge. So they have seven games that are already scheduled for them. And they have five games that are already scheduled for us,” Willard said.

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“Everyone’s asked me that. I’d love to play Duke … I think Jon would love love to get the schedule back. But until some of his, like, you know, they’re in the Champions Classic, they just have so many games that are ingrained in their schedule. He just doesn’t have room for another nonconference game … So to add another game on top of that, for them and us is almost impossible to try to find dates.”

Former Maryland coach Mark Turgeon didn’t pull any punches in a 2013 interview on the subject.

“Well, he’s mad. He’s mad at Maryland and he’s a powerful guy, and I think he’s trying to make all Terps fans mad. And he’s doing a good job of it. And you know, he might not have a choice. We got the Big Ten ACC challenge,” Turgeon said of Krzyzewski. “So I’m gonna really work to get Duke at our place down the road someday, but we got to be one of the better teams in the Big Ten, but that can happen.”

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