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Crabs v. ribs in NCAA's Sweet 16

Forget the toxic presidential race, the back and forth among Senate candidates and the unending proposals from our long list of Baltimore mayoral candidates. Now is the time for Marylanders to turn our attention to college basketball and its accompanying food wagers. And as Ronald Reagan used to say, sorta, here we go again. It is crab cakes versus barbecued ribs as the Maryland Terrapins men's basketball team takes on the Kansas Jayhawks in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.

Tomorrow's mid-Atlantic Midwest matchup is a geographic repeat of the 2014 baseball playoff between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals. That one cost me a shipment of Faidley's crab cakes when the Royals swept the O's. On such occasions I make food-based bets with my Kansas brother. The stakes are ribs from Kansas City and crab cakes from Maryland. When the Royals triumphed I didn't mind the expense of shipping the crab cakes as much as listening to the gloating from the winners. Even cousins living in Missouri got in on the crowing. Seems to me gloating across state lines should be illegal.

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Approaching this game I, like Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, have conflicting loyalties. We both graduated from the University of Kansas and now reside in Maryland .The comparison pretty much stops there.

During his years in Lawrence, Mr. Turgeon, a skilled dribbler, an excellent decision maker and a guy who preferred passing to shooting, became captain of the KU basketball team. He stayed on after graduation and joined the coaching staff of the KU team that won 1988 national championship.

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During my undergraduate days at KU, I was introduced to 3.2 percent beer (awful stuff) , made a few bucks washing out beakers for a chemistry lab and watched the Lawrence fire department quell fires. There were a fair number of fires, this being the era of student rebellion.

A native of Topeka, Mr. Turgeon returned to the Sunflower State after stints in Oregon and Alabama to coach the Wichita State team known as The Shockers. It got that name because in the early days of the school a number of its team members earned money by "shocking" or harvesting wheat. (Despite the disinformation put forth by the Rodgers and Hammerstein lyrics in "South Pacific" — "I'm as corny as Kansas in August" — wheat, not corn, is the big deal crop in Kansas.) This crop-based nicknaming would be the equivalent of some oyster-friendly team on Maryland's Eastern Shore, maybe Salisbury University, calling itself "the shuckers." Kinda has a ring to it.

Mr. Turgeon built an impressive resume, coaching at Texas A & M before moving to Maryland in 2011. In contrast I bounced around the country before landing in Baltimore. Despite my rootless ways, I retained a loyalty to KU basketball. And when fatherhood and the pressures of coaching Townsontowne recreational basketball teams descended upon me, I turned to the wisdom of Kansas basketball, a program that had produced such noteworthy coaches as Dean Smith at North Carolina, Adolph Rupp at Kentucky, Ralph Miller at Iowa and Oregon State. A lot my instruction, my sons tell me now, consisted of me screaming at the television as it showed college basketball games.

These TV teaching sessions were supplemented by occasional trips to Maryland games such as the one in December of 1997. Kansas was playing Maryland in the BB&T Tournament in Washington at the Verizon Center. Kansas, led by future pros Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz, was highly ranked. Maryland, led by Laron Profit and Rodney Elliott, was not. A friend got us courtside seats. This, I told my sons, was going to be a lesson in Kansas dominance. That is not how it turned out. The Terps packed the middle of court daring KU to shoot from the outside. Shoot the Jayhawks did, and mostly missed. Maryland won 86-83.

If the same outcome occurs tomorrow night it might break my heart but I could get some good ribs out of it.

Rob Kasper, a former Sun staff writer, is the author of "Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing" (History Press of Charleston, S.C.). His email is rob.judy.kasper@verizon.net.

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