The score lingers as a bitter aftertaste to a particularly unpleasant meal 34-2 34-2 34-2. Twelve minutes into the first half of last year”s game against Duke, the Wolverines trailed by 32 points, and were suffering one of the worst halves of basketball in Michigan”s history. The game which the Blue Devils won, 104-61 was the fourth-worst defeat in school history.
“It”s kind of what they were doing to a lot of people last year, especially at home,” said Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “They”ve had those kind of blitzes before, and they”ve had them with teams in their own league, so that tells you how good they were last year.”
Tomorrow at 2 p.m. the teams meet again.
The lineups are similar (gone from Duke are Nate James and Shane Battier gone from Michigan”s starting lineup is the injured Josh Moore). The records are similar (Michigan was 2-4 entering last year”s game this year they are 3-3. This year Duke, as it was last year, is undefeated).
What”s changed? For one thing, the game will be played in Ann Arbor, not Durham N.C. The most influential sixth-man in college basketball the Cameron Crazies will be watching the game on CBS. And then there”s the issue of “ties.” Not neckties, which Amaker does not wear, but familial ties. Amaker is a part of the Duke basketball family, having played for and subsequently coached under Mike Krzyzewski.
And while there are mixed feelings around Crisler Arena as to whether the Wolverines have any chance of “shocking the world” and upsetting the No. 1 team in the country, everyone is in agreement as to what the story is tomorrow: The coaching matchup, and the likelihood of continuing what was once a competitive rivalry.
Michigan and Duke have played each other at least once every year since 1989. But there have been questions as to whether this annual game ought to be renewed after next year.
Duke has won the past three meetings by an average score of more than 31 points per game.
Regardless of the disparity of success and competitiveness between the two programs, there is an ironic new reason why this game may be the second-to-last in the 13-year old rivalry: Amaker”s ties to Duke.
Krzyzewski has vocalized his concerns about coaching against former players. Last year his team faced Missouri in the NCAA Tournament and he said he did not like having to coach against his former player, Quin Snyder.
“It”s not as much (strain) when it”s regular season because we”re both going to go on from there,” Krzyzewski said of tomorrow”s game against Amaker. “It”s not an end-all. Coaching against Quin in the NCAAs, one of us is going to get knocked out and I don”t like that.”
Those sentiments are understandable, considering his 12-0 record against former players and assistants. Could he be 12-1 after tomorrow?
Duke is playing the best basketball in the country and Michigan has lost three of its last four games. The Wolverines are struggling to find a way to keep their primary inside presence senior center Chris Young out of foul trouble. It will be difficult to contain Duke center Carlos Boozer without strong minutes from Young.
But the real thorn in Michigan”s side, as predicted by Amaker, will likely be Mike Dunleavy, who is as versatile a player as the Wolverines will face this season.
On top of all that, the Blue Devils boast what is arguably the best backcourt in the country in Jason Williams and Chris Duhon. Last Saturday, Michigan was torched as Boston College”s Troy Bell and Ryan Sidney overmatched the Wolverines” guards with a combined 57 points.
Tomorrow the apprentice will challenge the master in the twilight of a rivalry that is more than a decade in the making. The Wolverines rebuilding and still working toward consistency and identity will challenge the blue and white juggernaut that is Duke. Another 34-2 first half score is unlikely, but a serious challenge by the Wolverines probably is as well.