- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mark Turgeon met the new neighbors Thursday and felt right at home.

“Happy to be here,” Maryland’s basketball coach said upon settling in at Big Ten basketball media day outside Chicago.

“Obviously with a season you’re always excited, but when you’re joining a new league, it even makes it a little bit more exciting,” Turgeon told the assembled media. “I guess it’s the unknown, not sure what you’re getting into. I’ve followed a lot of these coaches for a long time, followed the programs, so I know they’re all excellent coaches, great programs, and, arguably, it’s been the best league in the country the last four or five years.”

If that’s the case, it’s tough for the Terrapins to argue with the preseason poll that slotted them as the preseason pick to finish 10th in the conference. Maryland went 17-15 overall and 9-9 in conference play last season in its ACC finale and subsequently had five players transfer to other schools over the summer.

But a new season means a fresh start, and the change of scenery adds an additional layer of unknowns, from scouting to logistics. Turgeon pointed out Thursday that while the uniforms and venues have changed, lines can still be drawn between styles of play, and that’s what matters on the court.

“Instead of playing Virginia, you might be playing Wisconsin, instead of playing Clemson, you might be playing Purdue, and I can go on and on,” he said. “There’s teams we played in last year’s league that play the same way as teams in the Big Ten. There’s going to be finesse teams, there’s going to be real physical teams, there’s going to be fast teams, there’s going to be slow teams. You’ve just got to figure out who they are and adjust and play against those teams.”

The same, of course, goes for the Terrapins’ new set of conference opponents. But considering they only have to adjust to two new teams in Maryland and Rutgers, they’re more focused on the off-court ramifications.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said expansion “can only help” the league and will benefit the Midwestern teams when it comes time to recruit. They’ll have an easier time making pitches to high school players along the Eastern seaboard with those kids and their families knowing games will be easier to see on television and a trip or two close to home to play at Maryland or Rutgers awaits. The same principle applies to the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights mining talent in the Midwest, he noted.

“It’s opened up more recruiting areas for the teams that have been added and for the teams that have already been in existence in the Big Ten,” Ryan told reporters. “We’ve expanded our horizons, and I think it’s great.”

Though it’s hardly a natural fit geographically, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told reporters Thursday that he believes the additions make sense.

“If you look at Rutgers and Maryland, the kind of institutions they are, they fit,” Delany said. “We talk the same language. It’s high graduation, it’s great research, it’s comprehensive education.

“I believe that in all sports but in particular in football and basketball, because of the great students in that corridor, because of the great high schools in that corridor, we’re going to get our fair share of athletes. They’re going to get them, our [other] schools are going to get them.”

The flip side, though, is tougher and more expensive travel for all sports — particularly those that don’t bring in revenue like football and men’s basketball — and an unwieldy scheduling model that was a topic of discussion in many coaches’ interview sessions Thursday.

Now that the league has swollen to 14 schools, there’s no logical way to assemble an 18-game conference schedule for basketball. That has led to a rotation system that will keep some longtime rivals from more frequent visits than they’d like, but that’s the way the sport has trended nationally as conferences continue to grow.

“It isn’t your dad’s Big Ten anymore,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “It’s different. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”

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