The memories still remain. Juan Dixon getting the ball as time expired and hoisting it into the air as the Maryland Terrapins defeated the Indiana Hoosiers in the 2002 National Championship game in Atlanta. Tom Crean rushing to the podium to call out the IU students for chanting vulgarities at UM star Greivis Vasquez in the 2009 Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Those were two isolated games. Two out of seven played between these two teams over the last 82 years. Now, when the #13th ranked Terrapins visit #23 Indiana Thursday night in only their second trip to Assembly Hall, it will be the first installment of the series played with both teams part of the Big Ten. There’s not a better way to get that started than with a Thursday night primetime game in front of an amped up crowd with both teams playing well. It’s the first time two top-25 teams have squared off here since Senior Night in 2013, IU vs. Ohio State.
The schools are 10 hours apart (and let me tell you, that drive isn’t fun), but that’s only in geography. IU has three important players from the DMV area, Maryland’s recruiting hotbed, in Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, and Robert Johnson. The Big Ten Tournament is coming to Washington D.C in 2017. These two teams will play each other once or twice a year now going forward. And today, they find themselves tied atop the Big Ten standings with only one conference loss each.
So when looking at this conference’s expansion and trying to pick out a potential new rivalry game, this one might be it.
“I’ve always had great respect for Maryland and great respect for that area and respect for (Maryland head coach) Mark Turgeon and his staff,” Tom Crean said on Wednesday when I asked him about the matchup. “They’re really, really good.”
Maryland will come in with talent at all five positions. They are led by newcomer Melo Trimble, the second-leading freshman scorer in Big Ten games at 17 points per contest. They’ve also been getting key contributions from swing player Jake Layman (14.7 PPG) and Xavier defector Dez Wells (13.7 PPG). They’ve also added Big Ten experience with transfers Evan Smotrycz (Michigan) and Jon Graham (Penn State) who both started in games before arriving in College Park and now play off the bench.
“There’s guys on that team who will be playing basketball for a long time, on a very high level,” added Crean.
The key for Indiana in this matchup is to showcase their continued improvement. After falling to Michigan State on January 5th, IU has rattled off three straight wins to enter the top 25 and will be without the injured starting forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea once again.
“We saw that we were ranked and it makes us work harder because we just want to keep moving up in the rankings,” said junior guard Yogi Ferrell. “What I’ve learned is that being ranked doesn’t mean anything, you still got to go out there with the mentality of improving every game.”
Ferrell has taken a back seat scoring-wise since conference play started (9.2 PPG) and has been the facilitator (5.6 APG) for the offense while also being a force defensively. He’ll likely guard Trimble throughout the night, a player he says he sees similarities in from when he was a freshman, starting immediately on a veteran team. But if history is any indication, Ferrell won’t be afraid to let it fly in a game like this.
In a Big Ten that is more average this year than previously, there aren’t going to be many opportunities for big wins like beating a top-15 team such as Maryland, even if it is at home. Expect a loud and raucous (and maybe cleaner this time) crowd at the Hall and a close but high-scoring game.
If this one lives up to its billing, it could be the first of many memorable Big Ten games over the years for these new conference foes.
Prediction: Indiana 75, Maryland 70
Follow Adam on Twitter @adamcohenIU or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Adam is a co-host on the “Monday Evening Power Hour” on WIUX!