We’ve seen it happen before in this current era of conference realignment. A school announces its decision to switch conferences, and the reactions from their current conference range from sadness and disappointment to outright anger. What those moves also do is open the door for programs to re-evaluate their relationships, and such is the case for Duke when it comes to Maryland.
Whether or not the game is a bonafide “rivalry” seems to depend upon who you ask. While Maryland fans love nothing more than to knock off the Blue Devils (the Terps have won the last two meetings), the series doesn’t elicit similar vitriol from the folks who cheer for Mike Krzyzewski’s program (to be fair, they’ve got North Carolina as a major rival). And on Thursday Coach K reiterated his stance on playing Maryland once the Terrapins join the Big Ten, stating on ESPN Radio 980 that he won’t be scheduling Maryland.
“The quality of athlete on the court and then the atmosphere that they were able to play in really brought out some special moments,” Coach K agreed, discussing the Duke-Maryland games of the late ’90s and early 2000s. “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.”
At least Coach K gave an answer focusing on his program’s strategy when it comes to scheduling non-conference games, as opposed to other instances in which schools throw a fit and refuse to play the departing school out of anger. While it would be great to see the two programs schedule a series of some sort, with in-season tournaments and conference schedules that tend to be 18 games it is difficult to fit in every marquee game the fans may want to see.
But there is hope in the form of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, provided schools aren’t allowed to outright refuse to play the team selected by the conferences and TV rights holder ESPN. Those match-ups are usually dictated by the strength of the programs, so if there is a day that Duke and Maryland meet in the Challenge that would bode well for both programs (especially Maryland, with Mark Turgeon looking to making his first NCAA tournament appearance at the school).