Much has been made of the announcements of Maryland and Rutgers to leave their respective conferences to join the Big Ten. At this point there is no need to debate the merits of the decisions – a decision clearly and crisply made with no hesitation - let’s move on to what does this mean on the court for these two programs. While everyone focuses on the football side of things, there is a clear impact on the makeup of the men’s basketball programs in the conference.
Roddy Peters is a recent blue chip signee for Maryland basketball.
The Big Ten boasts three teams currently in the top five in the nation including the consensus preseason favorite to win the title, Indiana. Five programs will be in the polls all season long and that “Party of Five” will likely be Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State –all of whom will be nationally relevant for years to come. But despite the rankings, the only piece missing in the Big Ten impressive run on the hardwood has been championships. It’s been a dozen years since the Spartans cut down the nets in Indianapolis behind the “Flintstones”. During that same stretch the ACC has won five national titles and the SEC and Big East captured three apiece.
Rutgers, under Mike Rice, has steadily improved after years of struggling in the Big East. No Rutgers coach has done a better job recruiting than current head coach Mike Rice who successfully brought two high school All-Americans to New Brunswick in three seasons. Over the past decade, 14 All-Americans have come out of New Jersey meaning that the Scarlet Knights can be contenders if they keep top talent in-state. Rutgers will be in the conversation of NCAA tournament bubble teams this season as it tries to climb into the top part of the Big East. Moving forward Rutgers will compete with Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue for bubble status at the Big Ten. Rutgers had been searching for relevance in the Big East now it will shift its focus to being relevant in the Big Ten. The talent pool is there and the exposure of the new conference will only help Rutgers recruit New Jersey and the New York City market.
Maryland basketball has history, NBA players and titles on its side as it ventures to a new conference. The second most successful sports program in the ACC, Terrapins basketball has eight NCAA basketball tournament appearances in the past dozen seasons and won the 2002 National Championship. Entering his second season as head coach, Mark Turgeon has brought national attention back to the program and having Under Armour and their $4 million dollar annual grassroots budget behind them certainly doesn’t hurt; Maryland basketball is to Under Armour as Oregon football is to Nike.
Recruiting battles with “Tobacco Road” have not been kind as Maryland has not brought in a McDonald’s All American in nearly a decade. Washington, D.C. product Roddy Peters signed his national letter of intent for Maryland and he has a chance to break that string of futility but he ranked just outside the Top 40 in the 2013 class and will need a phenomenal season to do so.
Current freshman Shaq Cleare was also considered a top 50 national recruit and the Beltway is filled with top national high school programs and Maryland will remain relevant even without the ACC. Maryland basketball is ticking up with Turgeon and their transition to the Big Ten will be relatively smooth.
Both Maryland and Rutgers have an opportunity to step in and compete respectably in their new conference in football and men’s basketball. Currently Maryland and Rutgers have more recruiting promise with their respective rich recruiting backyards than anyone outside Indiana in the Big Ten and it will just be a matter of cashing it in towards NCAA tournament success. If Rutgers can keep top New Jersey talent home and grab recruits from New York City, they can be a consistent NCAA Tournament team. If Maryland can continue their recruiting success of the past two seasons then they can be near the top of their new conference in no time.
In other words, the already rich Big Ten just got a little richer.