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Will Maryland ever face Duke again? Fans have been waiting for a rematch since Terps left the ACC.

Maryland's Steve Blake forces a baseline pass from Duke's Jason Williams during the first half of a showdown between nationally ranked powers in College Park. The Terps never trailed in an 87-73 win over the Blue Devils, on Feb. 17, 2002.
Maryland's Steve Blake forces a baseline pass from Duke's Jason Williams during the first half of a showdown between nationally ranked powers in College Park. The Terps never trailed in an 87-73 win over the Blue Devils, on Feb. 17, 2002. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun)

Maryland had just lost at Duke in its next-to-last ACC road game in the 2013-14 season, the final year the Terps played in a league they had helped found 61 years earlier. With his team down a point, sophomore forward Charles Mitchell had missed two close-in shots and the Blue Devils benefited by getting an extra offensive chance because of a malfunction in the possession arrow mechanism at the scorer’s table.

As he was leaving Cameron Indoor Stadium that night, Steve Wojciechowski, then an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski, made a prediction.

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“See you in College Park next year,” Wojciechowski, who had played for Duke (1994-1998) after graduating from Cardinal Gibbons High School in Baltimore, said to a reporter he knew from back home.

With Wojciechowski in his sixth year as Marquette’s coach and Maryland’s sixth season in the Big Ten, he and the Terps are still waiting for the rematch. Instead, Maryland faces Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the Big Ten/ACC challenge.

Wojciechowski is among those who seem disappointed that one of college basketball’s biggest rivalries has seemingly gone the way of the jump ball.

“It’s kind of hard for me to remove myself from it because it was such a passionate game,” Wojciechowski said Saturday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the day before his Golden Eagles lost to then-No. 5 Maryland, 83-62, in the championship game of the Orlando Invitational. “I feel like I have the perspective of an insider, not an outsider.”

Asked if he’d like to see a rematch, Wojciechowski said, “I think it would be great. Some of the best games in college basketball history occurred between Maryland and Duke.”

The high point of the rivalry’s intensity might have come when the two teams faced each other four times in 2000-01 — two regular season matchups plus the ACC tournament semifinals and the NCAA semifinals — with the Blue Devils winning three. Three years later, the Terps exacted revenge by beating Duke in the ACC tournament championship in Greensboro, N.C.

But after Greivis Vasquez led Maryland to a shared ACC regular season title by beating Duke at Comcast Center in 2009-2010, the rivalry waned. It has never generated much buzz outside of Maryland and might be one of the reasons the teams have not played in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge since the Terps left the ACC.

It could have happened in last year’s NCAA tournament, when the Terps needed to beat LSU in the second round to earn a Sweet 16 matchup against the Blue Devils. Tremont Waters dashed that possibility with a last-second floater in a 69-67 win for the Tigers.

It could have happened in this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge, given that Maryland was projected by many to be among the top two in the league it joined before the 2014-15 season and Duke, as usual, was picked to finish near or at the top of the league it has dominated for decades. The Terps were due a home game and the Blue Devils were expected to go on the road.

For many reasons, it still hasn’t happened.

Duke played Michigan State on Tuesday in East Lansing and Maryland will play Notre Dame in College Park on Wednesday. Ever since the prospective matchups were announced in June, many have wondered how the Terps wound up playing a team that tied for last in the ACC last season and, while expected to improve, was picked in the middle of the pack this year.

Former Maryland coach and Naismith Hall of Famer Gary Williams said that television — in this case ESPN — has a much bigger role now in scheduling the Big Ten/ACC games than when the yearly series began 21 years ago. Without speaking specifically about individual schools or coaches, Williams said politics and preference, both personal and professional, can also come into play.

“There’s some teams that don’t want to play other teams and there’s enough influence with those teams that they don’t play everybody that they might play [otherwise],” Williams said Monday.

According to those involved in the matchmaking, several factors conspired against Maryland getting to play Duke or even another Top 10 team from the ACC.

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Those in charge dashed that dream matchup — at least for Terp fans — last spring when ESPN decided to schedule rematches from a pair of NCAA tournament Elite 8 games: No. 10 Duke playing No. 11 Michigan State — both teams have been ranked as high as No. 1 — and national champion Virginia, currently No. 7, playing at unranked Purdue, which began the season No. 23 and dropped out quickly.

“The opportunity to get those two really thrilling Elite 8 matchups a few months after they happened back in March, is a really compelling item for ESPN,” Big Ten associate commissioner Kerry Kenny said in an interview Monday. “While we want competitive games on the conference side, ESPN is obviously looking at the viewership as well.”

Two others projected in the top 10, Louisville and North Carolina, had been deemed home teams, as had the Terps. The Cardinals, now No. 1, played Michigan, which went from being unranked to No. 4, on Tuesday. The Tar Heels, now ranked seventh, host No. 6 Ohio State on Wednesday.

Since the Cavaliers were a road team and had already played twice in College Park — in 2014 and again last season, winning both games — they couldn’t have been Maryland’s opponent either, ACC associate commissioner Paul Brazeau said Monday.

Longtime college basketball analyst Dan Bonner was blunt in his assessment when talking about why Duke and Maryland haven’t been scheduled to play since the Terps left the ACC.

“If you’re looking at it from a national television perspective, whoever Duke is playing is the main game, Duke is the main team in terms of interest by fans and that kind of stuff,” Bonner said last week. “If you’ve got Duke, you match them up against another team that is a really good national draw. Even though Maryland is pretty good, I’m not sure at this time that Maryland is that kind of draw.”

Williams doesn’t believe that.

“Going into this year, given where Maryland was picked preseason and going back to last spring, when it was decided who was going to play who, people would look at Duke-Maryland as a national matchup,” Williams said. "Maybe in the [recent] past [it wasn’t] sure, but not now. The Duke-Maryland game has been a great game, and that goes back to Lefty [Driesell], not just back to me.”

Ultimately, it comes down to the wishes of ESPN, which televises the series.

“It’s their event and they ultimately get trump card on the final say in the matchups,” Brazeau said.

Some believe that the legendary Krzyzewski, perhaps the most powerful figure in college basketball as its all-time-winningest coach, has made it clear to those making the matchups that he won’t play Maryland. Krzyzewski was outspoken in his anger and disappointment when the Terps announced they were leaving the ACC.

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Kenny, who is in his third year helping schedule the game, said Krzyzewski and the other coaches in both leagues don’t have that kind of control on this series.

“There’s never been a conversation on either side that these teams can’t play for any specific reason,” Kenny said. “In this year’s case, [Notre Dame coach] Mike Bray has really strong roots in the Maryland area with his background at DeMatha. With those two compelling Elite 8 rematches, that was something from a compelling TV viewership standpoint really emphasized in all of our conversations.”

Williams said those upset that Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten in 2014 should get over it.

“It’s been awhile now, Maryland made the move to the Big Ten, that’s not going to change,” he said. “The ACC took in all the Big East football schools, that’s not going to change either. Let’s go from here. Let’s not live back then. Obviously there were strong feelings. Those things are done and the teams that are supposed to play, play.”

Big Ten/ACC Challenge

No. 3 Maryland vs. Notre Dame

Wednesday, 7:30 P.M.

TV: ESPN Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

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