CHARLOTTE — Every year since the ACC’s inception in 1953, the Maryland men’s basketball team has hosted Duke. The rivalry arrives like clockwork, a treat for the Terrapins faithful to cheer against the school long considered a bitter hoops rival.
That streak will end this season, Maryland’s final year in the ACC before bolting to the Big Ten. In fact, none of the conference’s three Research Triangle schools – Duke, North Carolina State and North Carolina – will visit Comcast Center. Instead, Maryland hosts ACC newcomers Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, as well as an expected top 25 program in Virginia. But no Blue Devils. No Wolfpack. No Tar Heels.
“Well it’s strange if it’s never happened, yeah,” Coach Mark Turgeon said Wednesday at ACC media day. “But when you add three teams and you go to 15 and you have new rivals in Pittsburgh, Virginia’s always been a rival. Those things happen. That’s the way it is. We’ve got Syracuse and Notre Dame at home. And Pittsburgh. That’s pretty cool.”
During his media day forum on Tuesday afternoon, ACC Commissioner John Swofford bristled at the idea that this season’s scheduling differed from past years, even though Maryland’s home slate is pretty much unprecedented.
“Through the regular scheduling process,” Swofford said when asked how that happened. “That’s not particularly unusual. The great thing we have in this league right now, when you look at the quality of programs, you can’t have a bad home schedule. You’re going to have quality teams and quality brands coming in wherever you are. Obviously one of the things you lose when you get bigger is some people don’t play each other as much. That’s just part of the growth.”
Perhaps, but as soon as Maryland announced its intention to depart the ACC last November, Turgeon and his players automatically assumed Duke’s visit to Comcast Center in February would be its last. Blue Devils Coach Mike Krzyzewski has repeatedly balked at the idea of scheduling Maryland for nonconference games, sounding forlorn as he told ESPN 980 in September: “You can’t just say you’re going to replicate that in another conference right away. That was already there. It was established over a period of time, and that won’t happen again. That’s not gonna happen again, because we’re not gonna schedule them.”
Last season, the atmosphere at Comcast Center was electric. After Seth Allen his two late free throws to give Maryland an 83-81 win over then-No. 2 Duke, the students stormed the court and celebrated deep into the night in College Park.
During his 90-minute session with reporters on Wednesday, Turgeon hedged against bitterness over a road-only game with Duke this season, but admitted the thought crossed his mind when the Blue Devils visited last season.
“You’re doing all the homework on it,” he said. “You know, I’m not going to get into all that. That’s why we were so emotional when we beat Duke last year, that’s why the fan base was the way it was at home last year. We knew it was our last game. Did I think we weren’t going to get any of the three? No, I thought we’d get one of them at least. But we didn’t get Duke. We got Notre Dame, Syracuse. That’s life.”
So does Turgeon agree with Swofford’s insistence that Maryland received strong home opponents, despite the absence of Triangle schools?
“Yeah, I mean we have a good schedule,” Turgeon said. “Would our fan base like to have either Duke or North Carolina on there? Or both? Absolutely. But we don’t.”