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Maryland's move to the Big Ten was a no brainer

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Maryland's move to the Big Ten was a no brainer

In the end it was a no-brainer.

When the University of Maryland Board of Regents voted overwhelmingly Monday morning to accept the official invitation to join the Big Ten conference, there were plenty of opinions. Most of the naysayers were traditionalists that pointed to 60 years of tradition as a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference and traditional rivalry games with Duke and North Carolina on the basketball court.

The other side had plenty of ammo as well.

To begin with, a change in conference would mean a migration to schools of a similar kind – large state schools with impressive academic credentials. They also pointed to the fact that alignment with the league would lead to the improvement of the Maryland football team to the point where it can compete in the Big Ten. The basketball programs – already Big Ten ready- would have a made for TV home schedule with the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State and Indiana that would lead to great rivalries in short order.

Oh, yeah, there was also money involved. Actually it wasn’t just money... it was serious, serious cash.

If it were only about the expected increase in television revenues from the ACC to the Big Ten (approximately $8-10 million per year) then the University President Dr. Wallace Loh and the board may have thought twice about pulling this trigger.

Then add to that millions and millions of dollars the school will receive as part of a consortium arrangement with Big Ten schools to share federal research dollars. It’s the kind of money that will insure the stability of both the university and the athletic department.

Maryland officials must have felt like they had just hit the Powerball.

If you’re on the Board of Regents – whose primary job is to oversee the operations and fiscal well-being of the University system – and you ended up voting against this then you probably would have some explaining to do.

I’m like a lot of Maryland sports fans and I can get wistful over memories of great Terrapin plays and games. One of the things I love most about Maryland fans is the way they mark the times of their lives around seminal Terp games (e.g. “my daughter was born the day after Steve Blake stole the ball from J. Williams just before halftime at Cole Field House).

I get that. And I get the angst around the move. For many fans the relationship with the ACC amounted to a first love or romance.

The problem is that the ACC that we all knew and loved changed irrevocably in 2003 with the addition of Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami. The move was done solely for football purposes and completely changed the way the ACC schedule worked on the basketball side of things. Gone was the simply perfect model of playing every team home and away each year. Because of the numbers, the league had little choice but to introduce an unbalanced schedule that eliminated most home and homes.

With Pitt, Syracuse, and Notre Dame all joining the ACC in the coming years those “rivalry” games would be fewer and further between. Maryland, for instance, could only count on seeing Duke and North Carolina at the Comcast Center every two years.

So much for romance.

Dr. Loh and Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson inherited a fiscal albatross from their predecessors that they could never have foreseen. That they have acted so quickly and so forcefully to secure the financial future of both the university and the athletic department is laudable and they deserve credit.

Loh was particularly forceful during the press conference and spoke passionately about the University’s financial status, the pain of having to cut several sports in the past year to trim costs in the athletic department and, most importantly, about his vision for the school. At one point he said his job was to chart the future and not be overwhelmed by it.

You would be hard-pressed to find a lot of University presidents with a similar kind of courage.

At one point a student reporter at the press conference asked why the process had not been conducted in a more open, public forum. The answer to that, of course, is that an open forum would lead to a complete paralysis of the process. The Board had been tasked to study this kind of opportunity with diligence and the future of the University in mind and acted accordingly.

Progress can be uncomfortable some times and institutions like a large public university can be particularly change averse. Ultimately the opportunities for real progress rarely come in such a compelling and obvious package as the one that was presented to the Board of Regents.

They were right to take it and the University will be far better for it in the long run.

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Maryland upset by Oregon, 77-63

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Maryland upset by Oregon, 77-63

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Sabrina Ionescu led five Oregon players in double figures with 21 points and the tenth-seeded Ducks continued their improbable run through the NCAA Tournament with a 77-63 upset win over third-seeded Maryland.

Fellow freshman Ruthy Hebard added 16 points for the Ducks (23-13), who beat second-seeded Duke in the second round and advance to the first regional final in program history.

Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough each had 16 points for Maryland, which finishes the season at 32-3.

The Maryland offense, which averages more than 90 points a game to lead the nation, was held to its lowest point total this season

Oregon coach Kelly Graves said before the game that his young team that starts three freshmen may not know it is not supposed to be winning. The Ducks became the second No. 10 seed to advance to a regional final, joining the 1991 Lamar team.

Oregon led by nine points at halftime and made seven straight shots late in the third quarter to extend that to 59-45.

A steal and basket by Walker-Kimbrough cut the lead to 69-63 with just over minutes left, capping an 8-0 Maryland run. But Ionescu answered with a basket and the Terps were called for an offense foul on the other end, ending the threat.

The Terps, who average more than six 3-pointers a game, were 0-for-6 from behind the arc.

Maryland missed its first five shots and the game's first basket didn't come for more than three minutes, a short jumper by Oregon's Hebard.

Ionescu had 11 points, three rebounds and three assists in the first 20 minutes. She finished with seven assists and six rebounds. The Terps were able to stay close in the first half thanks to Brionna Jones, who had 10 points and seven rebounds before the break.

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Maryland women heading to the Sweet Sixteen with back-to-back routs

Maryland women heading to the Sweet Sixteen with back-to-back routs

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Maryland was already enjoying a heck of a second quarter when Destiny Slocum scrambled in position to take a buzzer-beating shot.

Squaring up from just outside the opposite arc, Slocum stretched both arms behind her head and let the ball fly.

Swish!

Slocum's 70-foot shot capped a pivotal run, and the Terrapins blew past West Virginia 83-56 Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Brionna Jones had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Slocum scored 21 and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 19 for third-seeded Maryland (32-3), which will next face the winner of Monday's game between No. 2 seed Duke and Oregon.

The Terrapins will be hard-pressed to play better than they did in this one.

"On a scale of 1 to 100, today was 100," coach Brenda Frese said.

Teana Muldrow led West Virginia (24-11) with 16 points. Leading scorer Tynice Martin was limited to 10 points on 3 of 18 shooting.

The game turned in the second quarter, when Maryland outscored West Virginia 26-8 to take a 38-24 lead. After opening with a 23-4 surge, the Terrapins gave up two straight baskets -- the last with 4 seconds left -- before Slocum connected.

"Why not?" Slocum said. "Just throw it up and see what happens. Watching that thing was crazy. I was in shock . am still."

The 5-foot-7 freshman was immediately swarmed by her teammates while the fans in Maryland's home arena stood and cheered.

"That's her range," Walker-Kimbrough said. "I was surprised she made it, but a part of me wasn't."

The unlikely basket capped a 10-minute stretch in which Maryland made 12 of 17 shots.

"What they shoot in that quarter 70 percent?" West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. "Believe me, that shot didn't hurt us anymore than any of the other shots they (made)."

Actually, it did.

"It was a tough shot to see," Muldrow said. "But we can't really do anything about that except try not to let her get the ball at that time. She caught it, and it was one in a trillion."

Maryland carried the momentum into the third quarter, using a 12-1 spurt to build the margin to 23 points. Not long after that, the Big Ten champions celebrated a victory that thrust them into the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in six years.

Last season, Maryland lost its second round game at home to Washington. Intent upon avoiding a similar fate, the Terrapins left nothing to chance.

"This team definitely has a different feel than a season ago," Frese said. "You can feel their focus in terms of what we're doing."

West Virginia took a five-game winning streak into the contest, including an upset of Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament championship. On this day, however, the Mountaineers were no match for a Maryland squad that entered the NCAA Tournament with a surly attitude.

The Terrapins were displeased after the selection committee saddled it with a No. 3 seed because of a perceived weak non-conference schedule. To voice their displeasure, they opened with a 42-point win over Bucknell before easily dispatching West Virginia.

Maryland trailed 16-12 after a first quarter in which it missed 13 of 18 shots from the floor and were outrebounded 14-11.

The tone shifted dramatically at the outset of the second period. Walker-Kimbrough drilled a 3-pointer and added a fast-break layup, Jones bulled her way in the lane for two baskets and Slocum popped a jumper for a 23-16 lead.

West Virginia went scoreless for more than six minutes before Kristina King ended the drought with a jumper.