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Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Terps Move to the Big Ten: Rivalries, Recruiting, Reaction

As a lifelong Terrapin fan, I have never even imagined the possibility that the Terrapins could ever switch conferences. While all the conference realignment took place, I felt comfortable that the Terrapins were firmly stationed in ACC territory. The ACC had gained Syracuse and Pittsburgh, pushing the ACC back to the top in terms of basketball talent. With the newcomers helping balance out the map, making Maryland more of a central location, the league was even getting away from their deep Carolina roots. Perhaps a ACC tournament at the Verizon Center was in the future?

Syracuse and Pittsburgh could have been new rivals. Both schools have taken to Maryland to gain recruits and Maryland was back on the rise as a national contender. Folks from Maryland already hate everything Pittsburgh, so the Panthers would have been an easy transition. It was upsetting that the Duke games may be limited to one a year, but new blood was lurking in the water. New rivalries in to go with Maryland's new outlook. Maryland was ready to make their jump back to perennial top 25 contender while the ACC was going to take back over the basketball world.

In the ACC, all will go on without the Terps. While Terrapin fans hated Duke, Duke still has North Carolina. The newcomers still have each other, and Virginia can now officially focus on Virginia Tech if they hadn't already. But for Maryland, they are heading into the Big Ten as the outcast, even though they are joined by Rutgers.

A Maryland/Rutgers rivalry would make some sense, but Rutgers just isn't on Maryland's level for basketball. Plus, Rutgers brought the Baltimore area Ray Rice and for that, plenty of Terps fans are grateful. Maryland and Rutgers are in this thing together, bringing their big markets and fertile basketball recruiting grounds closer to the Big Ten so the rest of the teams can receive more viability.

But Maryland fans need a team to hate. They need a Duke. As arguably the most vulgar fan base in the nation, there needs to be a villain. Michigan State knocked the Terrapins out of the NCAA tournament a few years back thanks to a Korie Lucious buzzer beater. And they've matched up a few times in the Big Ten challenge. With the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry, Michigan State is kind of like Maryland was looking on the outside of the UNC/Duke rivalry.

There is also Penn State, who makes the most geographical sense. Plenty of students make their final college decision choosing between Penn State and Maryland around the Baltimore area. At this point, Penn State fans have been way to outspoken over the past year and have hit a nerve with some people. But a basketball rivalry with Penn State? That isn't any fun.

Wisconsin has Iowa, Minnesota has Wisconsin, and Purdue has Indiana. Maryland is kind of left out in the cold. As one Terp graduate suggested to me, Maryland fans should just hate all of the Big Ten with an intense passion. At this point, I imagine everyone would be on board with that. Nobody is liking this move and of course, Terrapin fans don't need much reason to hate.

Thad Matta already spiced things up saying he wasn't even sure what conference Maryland is in. Good one Thad, too bad Gary Williams is the best coach to come from Ohio State.

If I had to choose, I want a rivalry with Indiana. They just lost out on their annual Kentucky game and they could have something against the Terps as well after they lost in the 2001 NCAA title game. Moving forward, Indiana and Maryland could have some epic recruiting battles. Indiana has recently invaded the DMV area after adding a Team Takeover coach to their staff.

Indiana fans may scuffle at the thought at first, but if Maryland's basketball program rises like it appears to be, the recruiting and actual games will come with much at stake.

The recruiting shake up is another thing. Indiana has shown that they can get DMV kids to consider the Big Ten recently. They got Victor Oladipo, Mo Creek, and had a shot at Beejay Anya. In 2014, Indiana has 4 Maryland kids showing consideration, two of them being top 60 players - Dwayne Morgan and Phil Booth. Both of whom have offers from Maryland as well. It should get even easier one Big Ten takes over the TV market. I don't see Maryland losing out on many DMV kids because of the move.

It will eliminate much of the south, however. For example, Maryland is listed as a possibility for 2015 recruit Daniel Giddens (ranked 16th on ESPN). All of his schools listed besides Maryland are south of Virginia and in the ACC or SEC. You can bet the Terps will no longer appeal to players like that.

The good thing that Rutgers will bring is a chance for Maryland to stay relevant in the northern market. That is big. It may actually even help Maryland with guys like Isaiah Whitehead. And of course, Maryland now has a better shot at players in the vast Middle America.

This is helpful for getting a guy like Rashad Vaughn from Minnesota. He's a top ten player, but even though Maryland has offered, seemed like a stretch for them to get. Now, as a member of the Big Ten, it makes this a little more reasonable.

The biggest adaptation may be playing style. Big Ten plays the most unique playing style from any of the other big 6 BCS conference, playing very physical and slower. Maryland's recent additions of players should actually welcome the physical play - Cleare, Mitchell, Howard, and Wells are all big bodies. And if Len stays, he joins a long line of great Big Ten centers.

Maryland vs Indiana. Len vs Zeller. Now I kind of wish this move had happened sooner!

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