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Intensity abounds for Duke, Maryland

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

When you talk about intensity and emotion, the ACC action should reach a fever pitch Wednesday night when Duke and Maryland renew their rivalry. This should be a special matchup featuring a lot of intensity. In such a short time, the Comcast Center has become a special place for college basketball. The Red Army -- what the fans there call themselves -- will be in full force and as loud as they can be.

The Duke-Maryland game should prove that right now the ACC is the best conference in college basketball.

The fan jubilation is not only created because of the team's talent, but through the leadership of coach Gary Williams. He'll have his Maryland team ready to bounce back from last weekend's loss at Georgia Tech.

Williams would love to see a repeat of last season, when Duke visited the Comcast Center as the nation's top-ranked unbeaten team and left with an 87-72 loss. It was a brilliant performance by Maryland, especially in the second half when they disrupted Duke's rhythm and rolled to a 50-29 second half margin.

Maryland has to be concerned with its execution against a Blue Devils defense that's held its opponents to 57.2 ppg during its current 11-game win streak. Terps guard John Gilchrist has to show up with his "A" game for the Terps to win. He'll be matched up against Chris Duhon, who was brilliant in dishing out 14 assists against Wake Forest on Saturday.

Coach Williams also has to be worried about containing Duke's perimeter game. It isn't easy trying to shut down J.J. Redick because he's the best pure shooter I've seen since Chris Mullin played at St. John's. Allowing him to get open for a jumper is like letting other players get layups… it's automatic. Maryland is young, deep and talented and there's no doubt they'll mirror their coach and play with emotion.

Meanwhile, Duke has really improved in the post this season. Center Shelden Williams had a monster game against the Demon Deacons with 16 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots. He has become a major factor and he must stay out of foul trouble as he goes up against Maryland's quick big man Jamar Smith. Since losing to Purdue in the Great Alaska Shootout, the Blue Devils have won by an average of more than 25 points per game.

The Terps have proven they have the ability to beat quality teams with wins against then-No. 1 Florida and North Carolina and Wisconsin at home. This game should prove once again that right now the ACC is the No. 1 conference in America.

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