This month marked the start of the Big Ten's marriage with new partners Maryland and Rutgers, which this fall will be the 13th and 14th schools competing in a basketball conference ranked No. 1 by Ken Pomeroy for the past four seasons.
Looking at each school from a hoops perspective, we already know the league is adding two programs with vastly different traditions. First up is Maryland, the northernmost founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference back in 1953.
Enrollment: 37,631 (10th in B1G)
Endowment: $1.11 billion (12th in B1G)
Wisconsin alumni in Washington, D.C.: 8,516 (2% of UW alumni)
Official basketball site: UMTerps.com
All-time basketball record: 1,443-988 (.594)
All-time series vs. UW: Wisconsin 5, Maryland 2
Arena: Comcast Center, capacity 17,950 (2nd in B1G)
The Big Ten is welcoming Maryland with open arms and our brethren over at Testudo Times were feeling the love last week, even if some of the fan base might still harbor feelings for the ACC. The Terrapins bring the coveted beltway market into the Big Ten footprint and the league has responded by quickly moving the 2017 Big Ten Conference tournament to Washington, D.C.
Though not quite the same impact as bringing Nebraska's football legacy aboard, Maryland does bring one national championship to the group. The Terps immediately become the most recent champ in the Big Ten thanks to cutting down the nets in 2002 under former head coach Gary Williams.
The Badgers have played two particularly notable games against the Terps in the past. Dick Bennett's final game as UW's head coach was a thrilling 75-72 overtime win in Milwaukee during the 2000 Big Ten/ACC Challenge. I still remember exactly where I was parked in my car listening on the radio as the score went final. Two years later, en route to its national championship, Maryland blitzed Wisconsin, 87-57, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The 30-point loss remains the second-largest margin of victory for an opponent in Bo Ryan's Wisconsin career and his most severe postseason beating.
Ever hear an older Wisconsin fan lament the unraveling of Bob Knight's verbal agreement in 1968 to coach Wisconsin? Well, Maryland has its own "what if" stories too.
Maryland was an ACC powerhouse in the mid-1970s under Lefty Driesell. Unfortunately, it coincided with an era where only conference champions were invited to the NCAA Tournament. Thus, even though Maryland advanced to the Elite Eight in 1973 and 1975, it may have fielded it's best team in 1974. That year, the No. 4 Terps lost to No. 1 (and eventual champion) North Carolina State, 103-100, in maybe the best college basketball game ever.
The Other Newbie
The Other Newbie
On top of being "the greatest team to miss the NCAA tournament," Maryland also signed three-time NBA MVP Moses Malone that same spring, only to watch the high school phenom bolt directly to the the pros.
The list of Maryland's top players over the years is downright nasty. The Terps have sent 36 players to the NBA since 1972. You will recognize most of these names: Len Elmore, Tom McMillen, John Lucas, Albert King, Buck Williams, Len Bias, Tony Massenburg, Jerrod Mustaf, Walt Williams, Joe Smith, Steve Francis, Steve Blake, Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox, Greivis Vasquez and now Alex Len.
Many of those former stars came from the talent-laden areas of D.C., Baltimore, Virginia and even into North Carolina. But that is a blessing and a curse. Gary Williams won at the highest level, but also refused to play the necessary games with the local talent brokers on the D.C. prep scene in particular, which probably accelerated his retirement plans.
Current head coach Mark Turgeon succeeded Williams, but has yet to truly succeed. He posted a sub-.500 record over three ACC seasons, despite stellar recruiting hauls each year. Personnel turnover has plagued the program under Turgeon's watch. Five players transferred out this offseason (several of them key contributors), making room for more heralded recruits. But there is no sense of continuity.
For years, Maryland called venerable Cole Field House home, a place where top-ranked teams came to die and the Terps built their reputation as a Duke-killer. The Cole gave way to the new Comcast Center prior to the 2002 season and it remains one of the most intimidating arenas on the east coast ... but attendance is dwindling.
In fact, Maryland's entire athletic department is hurting. It had to cut seven sports just two years ago, which made the move to the Big Ten attractive -- if not essential -- to university president Wallace Loh.
The basketball program has pulled itself out of a hole before, however. Maryland experienced a very dark period in the late 1980s following Bias' drug overdose and its probation in the early 1990s. Williams then resurrected the program and became its all-time winningest coach. With a move to a more stable and welcoming environment, the pedigree is there for a basketball giant to rise again.
Will Wisconsin-Maryland develop into a new rivalry? If the Terrapins can rebound and get back to contending for league titles annually, it would seem inevitable. Though it might be hard for Badger fans to develop a hatred for the Terps seeing as Maryland counts Madison's favorite ESPN personality, Scott Van Pelt, as one of its most famous and supportive alumni.
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