It's rare that one team has played against the other three semifinalists left in the NCAA tournament, but that's the position that Duke finds itself in this week.
Of the four losses in 19 contests that the No. 3 seed Blue Devils have absorbed this spring, they fell to No. 4 seed Notre Dame, 7-3, on Feb. 18; unseeded Maryland, 10-7, on March 3; and No. 1 seed Loyola, 13-8, a week later.
Normally, those setbacks might be a cause for concern, but Duke coach John Danowski made no apologies for meeting those teams in the regular season.
"We believe in trying to make the toughest schedule possible," said Danowski, who will guide the Blue Devils into Saturday's semifinal against the Terps (11-5) at 5 p.m. "I learned that in my days at Hofstra that you don't get big wins on your schedule unless you have big games. With that being said, you cannot predict if teams are going to have great years. We did not know that Loyola was only going to lose one game or Notre Dame was going to go on and have a great year as well as Maryland. But you continue to schedule the toughest competition you can find in order to prepare yourself for this time of year. And that's what it's about. We lost to Notre Dame early in the season on the road, we lost to a great Loyola team on the road after we had a great week of practice, and Maryland took us behind the woodshed the first time we played them. So I think our team has learned from those experiences. Sometimes you really discover your individual commitment and your team's commitment when you lose. Not when you win because that's easy. I think it really focused everybody after those losses to work a little bit harder and find our resolve."