NEW YORK — Maryland basketball has entered the uneasy portion of its program's history.
This week the Terrapins will finish their second-to-last season as an Atlantic Coast Conference charter member. In 15 months, Maryland joins the Big Ten, and games against tonight's NIT semifinal opponent Iowa will occur annually in conference play.
In November, Maryland announced its 2014 exit, which surprised its coaches and has produced hard feelings among its ACC brethren. The league sued Maryland for a roughly $53 million exit fee, and the school has countered. The result of that lawsuit could determine whether other schools leave the ACC.
"Are we a lame duck? Yeah, you can look at it that way," Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon said. "But we’re trying to win a national championship no matter what league we’re in, and we’re trying to be the best team that we can be in whatever league we’re in. We are Maryland. It doesn’t matter what league we’re in. It’s a powerful institution with great tradition. That’s what really matters."
Turgeon is in his second season with the Terrapins after leading Texas A&M for four years. He admitted the Big Ten move caught him by surprise.
"I wasn’t ready for it," he said. "I wasn’t expecting it when I took the job. Academically and financially it’s supposed to be a great move for our school, so we’ll see."
The competitive level won't change much, if at all, for Maryland in either league. The Big Ten was regarded as the nation's best conference this year, and the ACC always ranks at or nearly the top. The leagues engage in an annual basketball challenge. With the Big East's breakup, the Big Ten and ACC likely will stay at the top in college basketball.
"It’s not going to change a bit," Turgeon said of his program's competition. "The Big East blew up. The ACC is going to be really strong next year. I don’t know about the Big Ten. I’m following it but not that close. The thing I really appreciate about the Big Ten is their coaches, tremendous coaches top to bottom. I like that. It challenges you to have your team ready every night."
When Turgeon was asked if he's encountered rough treatment on the road, he laughed.
"I got tired of the 'ACC' chant from the fans," he said. "Besides that, no. We play every game like we’re trying to win, and I thought the ACC and the coaches and the fans treated us with respect."
TURGEON THRILLED FOR WICHITA STATE
Turgeon, a Topeka, Kan. native, coached Wichita State from 2000 through 2007 and took the Shockers to postseason four times and the Sweet 16 in 2006. He was excited to talk about his former school earning a trip to the Final Four.
"Isn’t that awesome? I’m really proud of them," he said. "When you live there and you get to know the people and how passionate they are, it’s really cool. We went to the Sweet 16 when I was there; I can’t imagine the way they’re acting right now because they were really excited for that. It’s just great.
"Gregg (Marshall has) done a great job, and I’m just really happy for the whole Shocker nation. Everybody involved, all the former players that helped build it when we got there to what Gregg has done. It’s been a good 13 years for Shocker basketball."