CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 20: Bryon Allen #3 of the George Mason Patriots walks off the court after being defeated by the Ohio State Buckeyes during the third of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 20, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
I know I should probably love it as a D.C. hoops fans, and maybe all the D.C. hoops neutrals actually are delighed. (The two haven't met since 2004, back when the BB&T was an actual tournament, but that was before Mason's ascendence.) But I just don't see the upshot from Maryland's side. A win over Mason, established as a credible mid-major though they may be, isn't going to be a resumé victory. And a loss would be at least a little embarrassing, especially if Maryland harbors any hopes of the bubble next season. I guess it's nice that they won't be giving away a home game by having to take a return trip to GMU - at least I hope to God not - but part of me would still rather much prefer, I don't know, UConn.
Mason, if you're wondering, went 24-9 last year, but missed out on the NCAAs and the NIT. They'll lose their best player, Ryan Pearson, and starting center Mike Morrison to graduation, though they do return three starters. That's a good base to build upon, but I'm not sold they'll be better than they were last year. Then again, I'm not yet sold (by which I mean 100% certain) that Maryland will be better than they were last year, so again, maybe this is a better match than we'd like to admit.
Anyway, I'm about to ramble, probably incoherently: the Classic is an attractive event for Maryland for two possible reasons: as an entertaining, Atlantic 11-themed collection of DC-area basketball programs, or as a way to entice big programs into a home-and-kinda-home. The former, which appears to be this year's theme, is really only useful if you can get Georgetown into the picture, and that simply isn't happening. Otherwise, it's just a way for Mason or GW to get games with Maryland on a neutral floor. That's nice, but it doesn't really move the needle for me (or, I imagine, Maryland).
To be frank, I don't like the second option much, either, not really. I'd certainly hope that as Maryland returns to prominence they can get a home-and-home going with another big school without having to spot them a neutral floor, perhaps using Kansas as a starting place with the Turgeon connection. The return trip for a "home" game in Verizon is irksome.
If College Park administrators do in fact look to do that, though, this - Maryland against a local mid-major - might be the only way forward for the BB&T. That's not a terribly attractive proposition from Maryland's perspective, if we're being honest. It might not be a deal-breaker, and it's probably not the worst thing in the world - after all, there are quite a few good local mid-majors - but it's a bit sad to see it fall to that.
Anyway, George Mason joins Northwestern, Kentucky, probably Notre Dame, and I think Long Island, Morehead St., and Lafayette (the other participants in the Barclay's Classic) as the non-conference opponents we know of. Not an awful slate; Morehead is actually good, Kentucky is Kentucky, and there's no shame in NW or ND. But it'll be interesting to see if that satisfies Mark Turgeon's "four good teams a year" threshold.