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Sports At Large: U of Maryland Is A Basketball School

Caroline Terp via flickr
Credit Caroline Terp via flickr

The new thinking around College Park is that moving theTerpsout of the Atlantic Coast Conference after 62 years as a founding member is turning out to be a nice thing. The football team went 7-5 in the regular season, finishing third in their division, while beating longtime nemesis Penn State and gridiron giant Michigan. The women’s basketball team, fresh off a Final Four visit last year, is on a serious roll.Brenda Frese’ssquad is 30-2 and has won 24 straight games, including going unbeaten through the Big Ten regular season and tournament.

With just one senior and a nucleus of three sophomores, the Maryland women appear poised to be dominant for some time to come. But it’s been the play of the men’s basketball team, the centerpiece of the Maryland program, that has folks doing a rethink in Terrapin land. With the play of seniorDez Wellsand freshman sensationMelo Trimble, theTerpsfinished second in the conference regular season behind Wisconsin and climbed all the way into the Top Ten in national rankings.  

Coach Mark Turgeon, whose teams had largely been mediocre in his three previous seasons, has guided this year’s team to a 4 seed in the Midwest regional of the NCAA tournament, the first such Maryland trip in five years. It was that home win over Wisconsin, then ranked in the top five, that seemed to stamp theTerpsinto the region’s consciousness and forge the idea that Maryland’s move made sense.

Indeed, Maryland president Wallace Loh, the man who ushered the relocation, told the Baltimore Sun that the Wisconsin win was the quote coming out party unquote. Well, with all due respect to old Wally, the former provost at Iowa, a Big Ten school, let’s not be so hasty to break out the streamers and noise makers so fast, shall we?

The fact is Maryland remains a basketball school in a league full of football schools. Turgeon and Frese recruited players to their respective rosters that are more athletic on the whole than what they faced in the Big Ten. It certainly remains to be seen whether they’ll retain that advantage.

And as for football, Maryland fans have been notoriously indifferent about the sport for decades, and understandably so. At either end of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway are NFL teams that have won a combined five Super Bowls. Bringing the Terrapin football team to a level that can compete with schools like Ohio State, which, oh, by the way, just won the national title, is a daunting challenge.

So far, however, the first act of this play has admittedly been successful. Let’s see how the second and successive acts play out.

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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.