Sterling Gibbs is currently the only 2011 basketball recruit verbally committed to Maryland, but his love for the team is already unquestioned; a few days ago he said he couldn't wait to be a Terp and was recruiting Maurice Harkless over Twitter. But when Maryland plays in the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic this year in Madison Square Garden, Gibbs may have some thinking to do: his brother, Ashton, is the star for Maryland's newly-announced opponent, the Pittsburgh Panthers, and that figures to be the most interesting familial story-line Maryland has all year.
The preliminary matchups for the 2010 CvC Classic were set a few months ago - Maryland will play College of Charleston and Seattle - but those are pretty light fare. The main dish, though, was just announced today, and it's Pitt. The game goes down in near Gibbs' hometown in New York City on November 18.
That means that the Terps will face one half of the Illinois/Texas matchup in the second round; if the Terps win, they get the winner, and if they lose they get the loser. It's a pretty safe bet to say that both of these games will be extremely important in what has the potential to be another bubble year for Maryland. As Maryland proved two years ago, out-of-conference wins can make a tournament bid.
As for Pittsburgh, they're usually one of the most competitive teams in the country, and I see no reason it shouldn't remain that way this year. Last year, they were supposed to be reloading; instead, they won 25 games and beat Syracuse, West Virginia, and Villanova. Ashton Gibbs, big brother and "carbon copy" of Sterling - maybe we get a preview? - is back and leads the squad. Actually, the only player that isn't back is another family story - Juan Dixon's brother Jermaine was a starter for the team last year, but graduated.
Despite lacking any stars, Pitt was very good last year thanks to solid team play and a great defense. Returning most of their scoring and having a hopeful breakout star in sophomore Dante Taylor, they figure to be one of the best teams Maryland will have to play all year. Luke Winn and Andy Katz both have them at 7th in their early rankings; the Terps will be lucky to crack a single poll.
The tournament brackets can be found here. Hopefully the younger Gibbs goes home happier than the elder one.