CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The changing face of the Atlantic Coast Conference was on display again Wednesday during the league's media day for men's basketball. As has been the case at times during Mark Turgeon's first two seasons in College Park, the Terps were a little overmatched.
Outnumbered three to one with newcomers Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame in attendance at a downtown hotel, Turgeon faced the same kind of questions that football coach Randy Edsall experienced in Greensboro in July about Maryland leaving for the Big Ten after this season.
As if he had devised a game plan for an on-court opponent, Turgeon seemed up to the challenge. Asked by a North Carolina-based reporter about whether he thought the Terps could be treated as a “pariah” and whether there be “reprisals” for defecting, Turgeon didn’t blink.
“Not worried, not worried at all,” Turgeon said. “Got a great relationship with the officials, got a great relationship with the people in the office at the ACC. I have a good team. I know our fans are [concerned], but I’m not. I maybe the naïve guy, but I’m not [worried].”
Then, showing the competitive side that his players see every day in practice, Turgeon issued his own sort of challenge.
“The ACC needs us to be good this year,” he said. “They want to get seven, eight, nine teams in the [NCAA] tournament — we’re one of those teams that can get there. If they didn’t want us to be good, they wouldn’t have us play at Ohio State in the [ACC-]Big Ten Challenge. They wouldn’t have let us play a game. They know we’re good. The league knows we’re good.”
The media apparently has some questions. Reporters pegged Maryland seventh in the conference their preseason poll — Duke was picked to finish first — and no Terps landed on the preseason All-ACC team.
Turgeon has tried not to make a big deal about the fact that neither Duke nor North Carolina will be coming to College Park this season, though the Terps will play games at both Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Smith Center.
“That’s why we were so emotional when we beat Duke last year. That’s why the fan base was the way it was last year. We knew it was our last [home] game [against the Blue Devils],” Turgeon said. “I knew we weren’t going to get all three [North Carolina schools]. I thought we’d get one.”
ACC commissioner John Swofford said Wednesday that the fact that the Blue Devils wouldn’t play at Maryland for the first time since the ACC was established in 1953 was part of the “scheduling process” and added, “you can’t have a bad home schedule.”
Turgeon was diplomatic, even agreeing with the commissioner to a point.
“That’s life. We have a good home schedule,” Turgeon said. “We play Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pitt, Virginia. Would our fan base like to have Duke or North Carolina? Absolutely.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has taken some jabs at Maryland for leaving the ACC, said Wednesday that with the new teams the conference has a chance to regain its reputation as the best college basketball league in the country rather than just a top-heavy conference dominated by the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.
“I’m excited, because I didn’t think our league was the best league or one of the best [the past few years]. It was not focused to be that way,” he said. “It was focued on the Duke-Carolina rivalry, and at a point Maryland in there. As a league, we didn’t really promote our league or sell our league. Now we have a chance to do that right again.”
At least one of the newcomers is hoping to break up what has been mostly a monopoly shared by the two North Carolina powers located less than a dozen miles apart.
Syracuse forward C.J. Fair said he is looking forward to all the new matchups, particularly the ones involving Duke and North Carolina.
“It’s going to be different this year,” Fair, a City alum, said Wednesday. “It’s not starting over, but like moving on to a new journey, us being in the ACC. It’s something that a lot of people are looking forward to. I know me, personally, I’m looking for us looking to win the ACC in our first year.”
Turgeon said he understands that there are still mixed feelings among longtime Maryland fans about the school’s teams joining the Big Ten after what will be 61 years in the ACC. But he thinks it could be a rallying point for his team — and perhaps for the fan base as well.
“There’s no way I can say I’m emotionally invested as a person who’s been watching for 60 years. I can’t,” Turgeon said. “I’m emotionally invested in my job — anybody is. Do I understand how important the ACC has been to our tradition? Absolutely. We don’t talk about that yet, we will as the league gets close.
“We represent a lot of great coaches and a lot of great players and great teams. We want to do well. We have a chance. I think as a competitor you’re fired up every year for every game. Maybe this will make us a little more emotional since it’s our last year. I hope so. This will be a positive for us if it helps us win a few more games.”
ACC preseason media poll
1. Duke (50 first-place votes), 805
2. Syracuse (3), 753
3. North Carolina (1), 668
4. Virginia, 612
5. Notre Dame, 608
6. Pittsburgh, 477
7. Maryland, 473
8. Boston College, 457
9. Florida State, 334
10. North Carolina State, 332
11. Georgia Tech, 311
12. Miami, 224
13. Wake Forest, 220
14. Clemson, 141
15. Virginia Tech, 65
Preseason All-ACC Team
C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Joe Harris, Virginia
Rodney Hood, Duke
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
Jabari Parker, Duke
ACC Preseason Player of the Year
C.J. Fair, Syracuse
ACC Rookie of the Year
Jabari Parker, Duke