UNC Basketball: The Importance the Maryland Game


I have a scenario for you:

Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Your favorite team is hotter than Hades himself, and they have not lost since their last game against their bitter rival which was a little over three weeks ago.  Your team has been climbing back into the national rankings since about week three, when everyone realized that they were not as good as some experts predicted that they should be. However, due to their recent hot streak, they are technically ranked 26th in the nation in the most recent poll because of the number of votes they received.  Now, there is one week left in the season, the pieces are finally fitting together because of a lineup change that found its’ origin in the last near-defeat against your bitter rival, and the fan base is riding high.  There is one week left in the season, and the only thing that separates y’all meeting your rival for a battle for second in the conference is a road game against a fairly feisty team that seems to always play their best when you guys come to town.  So, does this game against your bitter rival even matter (matter nearly as much) if you lose the game in between??

Absolutely not.

Welcome to the current state of our basketball world Tar Heel faithful.  This game against Maryland is OUR BIGGEST GAME OF THE YEAR.  Winning this game means that we get to play a Duke team that we should have beat on the road at home with our newly energized roster due to the addition of PJ Hairston into the starting lineup and the subtraction of Desmond Hubert, for all practical reasons, from the rotation at all.  This has happened so many times in sports over the years.  A team has what is perceived to be their biggest game of the year coming up on the schedule, but they forget to adequately prepare for the middle-of-the-road team that they play a couple of days before the big game.  They go on to lose to that middle-of-the-road team and that becomes their biggest loss of the year, and in a retrospective turn, their biggest game of the year.  This game against Maryland in Wednesday night at 7 on ESPN is infinitely important.  While a win can set us up for a beautiful close to a wonderful end to the season, a loss could render our game against that other team down the road irrelevant   So, I will now do as the Heels should do, and look before the Saturday game, as opposed to looking ahead to it.  And no, I will not even refer to the name of this school down the road in this entire article in case you were wondering.

In the last ten years, we have fared in the game before our season finale against that one school in Durham as follows:

2003: Wake Forest, away 60-75 L

2004: Clemson, Home (of course we won it’s Clemson at home) 69-53

2005: Florida State, home 91-76 W

2006: Virginia, home 99-54 W (Dear god)

2007: Georgia Tech, away 77-84 L

2008: Florida State, home 90-77 W

2009: Virginia Tech, away 86-78 W

2010: Miami, home 69-62 W

2011: Florida State, away 72-70 W

2012: Maryland, home 88-64 W (we wore those horribly ugly platinum jerseys)

SO, in the last 10 years, we have lost twice in the game before the last game of the regular season.  That’s nice to hear.  The two years we lost (NIT appearance and Elite eight loss)  To get slightly off topic for a second, I’m still mad about that Elite eight game against Georgetown.  Wayne Ellington missed that shot at the buzzer….

But thank the good Lord I couldn’t find it on YouTube.

Anyway, this game against Maryland is absolutely massive.  Hopefully, you’ll agree with me, because I’m right.  The Heels need this game, and then we can start to get hype about the next game against that other team.  But, the number 1 and only focus right now needs to be this tough road game against Maryland or we have forgotten to care about what I referred to earlier as our biggest game of the year.

Go Heels.