Normally the final weekend of ACC play would be limited to two things: first, whoever's playing for first if it's not settled and second the Duke-UNC game.
This year, Maryland's final ACC game is going to draw some attention as well.
Virginia will be in Sunday and Maryland is making a day of it. There will be giveaways and autographs. And after Virginia wins, it's back to reality.
Actually, win or lose it's back to reality, and the reality of which we speak is that since Maryland won the national title, the program has been pretty mediocre, especially in ACC play. Here's the year-to-year record...
- 2003-04 - 7-9
- 2004-05 - 7-9
- 2005-06 - 8-8
- 2006-07 - 10-6
- 2007-08 - 8-8
- 2009-10 - 13-3
- 2010-11 - 7-9
- 2011-12 - 6-10
- 2012-13 - 8-10
- 2013-14 - 8-9 (to date)
...and overall, ACC play has been 82-81 in those years, which is pretty much the exact definition of mediocre.
Our theory about Gary Williams is that winning the title ruined him as a coach. This was a guy who ran on resentment and something close to paranoia, who behaved as if he thought the ACC (and maybe life) was against him.
What could he do after winning? How do you fuel that magnificent resentment when even if someone was out to get you they failed?
Williams had a good four-year stretch from 1998-99 to the year after the title, but other than that, he won 26 games in 1994-95, 25 in 2006-07 and 24 in 2009-10.
You have to cut some slack for cleaning up after Len Bias and Bob Wade, but look at the wins:
19, 16, 14, 12, 18, 26, 17, 21, 21, 28, 25, 25, 32, 21, 20, 19, 19, 25, 19, 21, 24, 19.
Mark Turgeon hasn't been any better. The Larry Brown/Roy Williams product has an overall record of 47-30 and an ACC record of 21-27.
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With Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame and Pitt joining with Duke, UNC, Florida State, a resurgent Virginia and Clemson and State not far behind, it's entirely possible that Maryland would have ended up (actually remained) one of the second-tier ACC teams.
Rather than being the UCLA of the East, as Lefty Driesell famously put it, the Terps might have become the Sick Man of the ACC.
We'll be curious to see how things work out in the Big Ten. Maryland's ACC tradition of complaining and finding conspiracies everywhere, well, at least we're used to it. It's probably been 40 years since Dean Smith left an ACC coach's meeting and Lefty Driesell turned to the rest and said "we gotta get that guy."
Dealing with this conference is tough because everyone knows they can beat everyone else. The Big Ten won't be easier. Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, Thad Matta, John Beilein, Fran McCaffery, Richard Pitino, John Groce and Chris Collins are all either established or rising stars with good programs.
None of them are natural rivals though.
Eric Hoover, a UVa graduate writing in the Washington Post, tells of tailgating at College Park when a band of Terps showed up looking for a fight. He says he'll miss Maryland.
We're not sure we will, at least not in the same way.
We'll miss the character of the games a bit, but the Syracuse rivalry is promising already and Louisville promises to be intense as well. And generally speaking, people go to games at those arenas without worrying about their safety.
We won't miss them for long. And in a few years, when no one enrolled at Maryland has a memory of playing Duke, that will fade too.
There is a problem for the ACC market-wise, though, and it demands some creative thinking. Moving the tournament to D.C. is good because it plants the ACC flag and also is no doubt offensive to Maryland, but it's not enough.
Most obviously it's an opportunity for Virginia and Virginia Tech. It'll never happen, but it would be interesting to see them schedule a game in the Verizon Center.
Or perhaps Virginia and one other ACC school, if not the Hokies, could schedule an event with Georgetown and say VCU. Call it the DMV Championship.