Maryland will officially head back to the Barclays Center for a "major" out-of-conference opponent next year.
What with the all the hubbub yesterday, this little bit of news was (perhaps understandably) left by the wayside.
Maryland has signed a multi-year agreement to play men's basketball games at the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn, N.Y., arena announced Saturday afternoon. ...
According to a person familiar with the situation, Maryland's opponent will be from a major conference. The game's date is still being finalized.
"We're looking forward to returning to Barclays Center," Coach Mark Turgeon said in a statement. "We had a great atmosphere up there this year and Barclays Center is a first-class arena. I know our student-athletes and coaches enjoyed the experience in Brooklyn and appreciated the outstanding support our fans provided us in a great opening game. We'll look to repeat that again."
We learned as much when the Nets' CEO let it slip to Boomer Esiason on the radio, but the official word is now out and it's tough to be anything other than pleased with it. The opponent is still being worked on, obviously, but one thing's clear: it'll be a premier team. You don't schedule this type of thing to face anyone you don't at least expect to be on the bubble, and perhaps even higher, especially when you're fighting to get your scheduling up to snuff.
The name I've heard bandied about - and it's still a rumor and, even if true, was still getting worked on and wasn't finalized - is Michigan. (That came to me from the Michigan side, for what that's worth.) It definitely fits the profile of the type of opponent that should be in this game, and there'd be two interesting subplots: the Evan Smotrycz game, and of course the Big Ten preview. But a variety of teams, including from the new and old Big East as well as the SEC or Big 12 would be viable. (Some have wondered if this is a solution to The Georgetown Problem, but if you ask me it's a strange one; that game is so important to the D.C. area that it really does have to be played there. Taking it out of its local context and sticking it in New York seems ... inelegant.)
Anyway, it's a great idea to go back to the Barclays: it's going to be a high-profile game, can attract a big-name opponent without needing to do a home-and-away, and continues to grow the presence in that NYC area, which already has a pretty substantial group of Maryland fans. It's a smart move, especially if the opponent is a worthy one.
As for next year's schedule, there's this game (which should be a big-name opponent), the BB&T Classic game against George Washington, whoever Maryland plays in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge (which, based on their order of finish this year, should be a team like Minnesota, Illinois or Purdue), and the Paradise Jam, which will feature possible bubble teams Providence, Northern Iowa, La Salle, and Vanderbilt. Assuming this opponent is a top-25 team, like Michigan, that's not an awful non-con schedule, but if we've learned anything from this year it's that you can never have too many quality opponents. Adding at least one more big program on the docket should be a priority, and the cupcake fodder should be a step up from the dross that graced College Park this year (Stony Brook and 32-year-old Tommy Brenton notwithstanding). But after jeopardizing their tourney chances with a lackluster schedule this year, I doubt they'll make the same mistake again.