Maryland will play in its 18th BB&T Classic on Sunday when it meets George Mason at Verizon Center.
It could also be the last time the Terrapins (5-1) appear in the event.
Coach Mark Turgeon said Saturday he plans to sit down with “everybody concerned” at the end of the season to determine if continuing in the BB&T is in the best interest of the program.
“A lot of it will be determined by what kind of crowd we have tomorrow,” Turgeon said. “I made it harder on them because I don’t return the game. I don’t want to return the game and it’s harder to get someone to come play us. I have to do what’s best for Maryland basketball in the end. If it takes a few bad articles to do that, I’ll do that. For now, I’m glad we can help and we’ll cross that bridge when the season is over.”
Maryland returned BB&T Classic games against Villanova (2009) and Temple (2010), playing those schools at nominally neutral sites in Philadelphia the following season. The Terps played Notre Dame in the BB&T last season; George Washington returned that game last month.
The BB&T Classic, which has included Maryland since its outset, was established as a local basketball tournament to benefits Children’s Charities Foundation (CCF). It began as a two-day event as the old USAir Arena, then moved downtown when Verizon Center opener.
However, what once was a multi-day tournament featuring Maryland, George Washington and two other schools —- including, in various years, Connecticut, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, Stanford, Texas and West Virginia —- turned into a standalone event in 2005. It has vacillated between a doubleheader and tripleheader in the years since.
Former Maryland coach Gary Williams was deeply involved in helping the CCF. Turgeon has no such ties, and his scheduling philosophy differs from his predecessor. More significant than any difference between the coaches is Turgeon’s insistence on controlling his own slate.
“I like to dictate my schedule and we’re going to 18 league games now; we used to have 16, so there’s two more tough games,” Turgeon said. “I didn’t like going to play Temple in January and then have Duke our next game or whatever it was. Some guys like it; I don’t. I want to dictate my games. That’s just me. I have the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and this game. I’m looking at other things. I really enjoyed the game up in Brooklyn [against Kentucky], even though we lost. That was fun. It was a great environment. If this great environment isn’t going to give us that and get us somewhere else … you hear what I’m saying.”
Indeed, the Barclays Center provided an electric environment for Maryland’s season opener, while the Verizon Center is usually about 60 percent (at best) for the BB&T Classic.
Consider the attendance figures for the BB&T since it went to a one-day event:
Verizon Center seats about 18,000 for basketball. It isn’t hard to do the math in determining what the atmosphere for the doubleheader has been like in recent years —- especially since not everyone stick around for both (or all three) games.
That brings things back to Turgeon’s looming choice. A team typically has 27 games plus an exempt event to work with. The Terps will play 18 league games and will have to have their share of home nonconference games as well. It leaves only so much wiggle room for a neutral-site game not far from campus.
“Things have changed since I took the job,” Turgeon said. “It’s not the same job that I took as far as adding two games in the league, especially going into a different league. Right now I’m so dialed into my team, coaching my team. When the season ends, we’ll sit down and have a couple games left to schedule and decide what’s best for the program.”
—- Patrick Stevens