The Washington Times - February 25, 2009, 04:59PM

One quote that’s already circulated plenty in the last 24 hours got me thinking about the standard Duke late-season reputation.

Well, not late March. More like February and early March.


Because whether Maryland’s Dave Neal emphatically meant Duke was “beatable” or not (and he should, since the Terps might as well not bother showing up if they don’t think they can win tonight), it touches on an interesting development over the last three years.

But first, Neal’s comment from yesterday.

“They beat us by 41, and that’s a fact,” Neal said. “For the most part we want to put that game behind us. Now they have to come back here and this is our chance for revenge. We’re going to come out here and play extremely hard.

“We kind of know what Duke wants to do a lot better than we did that first game. Ee got to see what they’ve done against other opponents. They’re extremely beatable. They’ve been struggling the past couple games, but they just got a big win against Wake Forest. I think if we come out here and execute our offense, we have a better chance of winning this game.”

All of that is probably true. But the interesting thing is that it’s true over a longer period at this time of year. Let’s play a little game:

Year Team A
Team B
Feb/March ‘07
4-8 9-3
Feb/March ‘08
10-5 7-6
Feb/March ‘09
4-3 3-2
Total 18-16 19-11

One of those teams is going to head to yet another NCAA tournament next month (including each of the last three seasons). Another needs to do some work to avoid its fourth NIT in five years.

And that great finishing team to the right? Yep, that’s Maryland. Duke, meanwhile, was a .500 team after Feb. 1 over the last three seasons until beating St. John’s and Wake Forest in the last week.

Reversing a 41-point loss a month later won’t be easy for Maryland. But Neal is right; there’s nothing in Duke’s profile in the recent past that suggests the Blue Devils aren’t extremely beatable at this time of year.

—- Patrick Stevens