None of the players who will take the floor for Tuesday night’s game between Maryland and Georgetown has cherished any memories from this rivalry, because most weren’t even alive in 1993, the last year the two teams met in the Washington area. They have been bystanders to a long-standing cold war between the schools’ athletic departments, which ended in April when both agreed to meet in a home-and-home series over the next two seasons as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.
Still, the gravity of Tuesday night’s showdown in College Park hasn’t been lost on the current Terrapins and Hoyas, who have an opportunity to help rebuild the foundation for a rivalry that has been dormant for more than two decades. That history left Georgetown Coach John Thompson III choosing his words carefully during a meeting with reporters last month, when he was put on the spot about the long-term viability of the rivalry.
“Isn’t two years long term?” Thompson III quipped. “I will say, I’m excited about it. As we have quickly learned the last several years, the whole landscape of college athletics, three years could be completely different than now. So we’re not going to etch anything in stone. But I think both [Maryland Coach] Mark Turgeon and I are pretty excited about it.”
Maryland’s players were peppered with questions about nostalgia Monday, for which there was little to say. Senior forward Jake Layman hasn’t looked at old highlights on YouTube or read any press clippings about the rivalry.
Sophomore guard Melo Trimble knows Georgetown only as the school he once visited twice while in high school, which yielded no scholarship offer. Junior forward Robert Carter Jr. has given the history between the two teams little thought, though he has been exposed to the hype plenty during his walks through campus.
“Everybody asking for tickets,” Carter said. “I can feel the excitement around here, to know that it’s an important game. It’s a must-win. Like all games.”
The game at Xfinity Center has long been sold out. The face value of the tickets ran between $65 and $85, the highest of any Maryland home game this season. A month ago, the median resale price for a ticket was running $160, according to Chris Leyden, a content analyst with SeatGeek, the Web’s largest event ticket aggregator. That price has dipped recently, but the median resale value remains $138. That speaks to both Maryland’s rise in the national polls (secondary market activity for Terrapins tickets has more than tripled since last season, according to Leyden) and the kind of buzz that Tuesday’s game has generated.
“John [Thompson III] and I have talked about playing this game for a while,” Turgeon said Monday. “I don’t know how many tickets we could’ve sold if we had a huge arena, but I’m sure we could’ve sold 50, 60,000 tickets for this game.”
Even for those who won’t be in attendance Tuesday night, the game will rekindle memories. Longtime Maryland coach Lefty Driesell plans to stay up late and watch the game on television, which will provide a reminder of an era when Maryland and Georgetown met every season. It will also underscore how long the impasse between the two schools has existed since the days of Driesell, who had many memorable battles with legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr.
The Terrapins and Hoyas have met just three times since 1980, with the last coming during the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in 2008. The schools haven’t met in College Park since December 1973, when Maryland dominated Georgetown with a 115-83 win at Cole Field House. Members of that team will be honored as part of the festivities Tuesday night — as will Maryland teams from 1974-75, 1993-94 and 2000-01 — the last three teams to beat Georgetown.
“It is a rivalry,” Driesell said. “Kids at Georgetown will brag if they win; kids at Maryland will brag if they win. And they know each other. They hang out together. It’s not like Maryland playing Wisconsin. Maryland kids don’t know anyone that goes to Wisconsin or Ohio State.”
Turgeon said Monday that while he doesn’t expect the game to have long-term recruiting implications, the fact that both staffs have recruited players with both teams adds a shade of familiarity to the game. Both rosters are somewhat connected. Carter has experience playing against Georgetown’s players in the Kenner League, the NCAA’s only sanctioned summer league in the District.
While he starred at O’Connell, Trimble played against Tre Campbell, a former standout at St. John’s College High who is now a key piece of Georgetown’s guard rotation. Alongside his teammates, Trimble watched Georgetown lose to Radford in the season opener Saturday, but even that stunner can’t kill the buzz of Tuesday’s game.
“It’s probably going to make them even more hungry to play us,” Trimble said.