The Maryland men's basketball team will open next season against Connecticut at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 8, according to an individual with knowledge of the negotiations.
Earlier this month, the arena announced a multi-year deal signed with the Terrapins, but neither Maryland's upcoming opponent nor the date had been finalized. At the time, a person familiar with the situation said the Terps would face a "major-conference" team.
UConn was the first team to come to mind after the move was announced, and many of you shared that sentiment as a sensible one. And, well, here we are.
The Huskies were barred from postseason play this year, but they had a solid season nonetheless under first-year head coach Kevin Ollie, going 20-10. They had some tough times in the Big East conference schedule, but beat Michigan State in the season opener and recorded wins over Washington, Notre Dame, and Syracuse. They had an RPI of 49 and a KenPom rank of 53, and likely would've been a bubble team had they been eligible for the tourney.
Theoretically, they should only get better for next year. R.J. Evans was the only senior on the roster, and while Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are borderline pro prospects, they're fringe at best. Throw in development DeAndre Daniels, Phillip Nolan, and Omar Calhoun, plus top-100 power forward Kentan Facey, and they'll be outside contenders for the (admittedly drastically weakened) Big East title. It's the sweet spot of a beatable team that should still be very good, which is exactly the type of game Maryland should be looking for.
It's also a fairly local team to New York, and they'll be sure to have plenty of bodies in the seats. Of course, so will Maryland, which is why the combination of two semi-local teams makes such obvious sense. The Nov. 8 date is of interest, too: it'll almost certainly be another season tip-off type of event, moved up a day from last year's Nov. 9 date with Kentucky.
The Terps' schedule - that we know of - now includes this game, the late November Paradise Jam, whoever Maryland draws in late November in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge - my guess is Illinois at home, which would be another likely tourney team - and George Washington in the BB&T Classic in early December. That means, if Maryland wants to squeeze another prime game in there, there's a gap in mid-December - usually cupcake season for most teams - and about two weeks worth of space in mid-November, too. With one more decent power conference home-and-home or neutral/Baltimore game, and a better job of cupcake scheduling - more Fairfields and Drexels, fewer S.C. Upstates and UMESes - the schedule's starting to come together nicely.