The Washington Times - January 13, 2009, 12:39PM

It’s understandable to not play well at Duke.

Or North Carolina.

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Or even a local rival, like Virginia.

But Maryland’s struggles against Miami (really, anywhere, but especially in Coral Gables) is a puzzler.

Certainly it’s an unusual atmosphere. BankUnited Center is neither big (like Carolina) or crammed (like Duke) nor loud (like Wake Forest).

It’s just a little convocation center that seats 7,000 – and drew more than 5,000 just once in nine home games this season.

And Maryland struggles there?

“It may be a little coincidental,” guard Eric Hayes. “They’ve had some pretty talented teams as well. It’s probably a little bit of both of those. It’s a little bit different going down there and playing where you’re used to it being cold here all the time. It’s a lot different atmosphere down there.”

The attendance is the odd thing, which really isn’t that odd if you understand the Miami market. But it does make it an odd fit for what (despite the league’s efforts to change things) remains a basketball-first conference.

“It’s surprising because they’ve had some good teams over the years, especially this year,” Hayes said.  “For some reason, they don’t really get the support they  probably deserve. Maybe that’s because of the football team. I really don’t know the reason for that. It’s probably one of the less loud crowds in the ACC.”

It was reasonably loud last year, when 6,000 or so showed up for an tip on a warm Saturday afternoon in late February. So it can be a pit. And it probably isn’t the worst homecourt in the conference.

That honor belongs to … well, I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise of the ACC arena rankings. Which are coming later in the next 24 hours. So that’s something to look forward to.

Patrick Stevens