A few hours before Maryland's first football season in the Big Fourteen, er, Big Ten ended with a none-too-surprising whimper Tuesday, the Terps' men's basketball team netted a major road win in their first-ever Big Ten game.
One of the major story lines throughout 2014 was Maryland's conference switcheroo. Really no point in debating its merits anymore — whether loyalty is an antiquated notion, whether greed is the only real ethic in big-time NCAA sports, or whether it's more ridiculous for a league called the Big Ten to have 14 teams or a league called the Atlantic Coast Conference to have teams that play in Kentucky and Indiana — it's done, and most fans seem to be, if not embracing it, at least giving it a chance.
The football season was a success. At least at the box office. (On the field? Going 7-6 in a very top-heavy league — with Michigan and Penn State about to get much, much better — wasn't anything special.)
In a year that saw overall attendance at college football games drop to its lowest point in 14 years, Maryland saw its attendance increase by 14 percent to nearly 47,000 fans per game, the second-highest jump among "Power Five" conference schools behind only Texas A&M.
Fans were intrigued by the new group of teams coming to College Park. Of course, those fans were never particularly enamored of the teams that used to come in. Six decades of ACC play and Maryland never really developed a decent football rivalry.
Tuesday's huge hoops win at perennial power Michigan State notwithstanding, it remains to be seen how basketball fans will embrace the move. It's not just adjusting to new rivalries — and when fans see Duke and North Carolina playing on TV this winter, they will miss those rivalries — it's adjusting to a a whole new, less artistic, style of play.
It had to be disconcerting for those tuning in at halftime to see the 17-14 score. (Coincidentally, the first win in Maryland men's basktball history, back in 1911 against VMI, ended 17-14.) It was quite the initiation to Big Ten basketball.
It's, um, physical. And, yes, "physical" is a euphemism for plodding games filled with clutching, grabbing, pushing and pounding. And not much scoring. Heck, Ohio State's football team practically puts up as many points as its basketball team.
A year ago, only one Big Ten team (Iowa) ranked among the nation's top 50 in scoring. Half the league ranked 154th or lower, with Northwestern third from the bottom at a mere 59.5 points per game.
That's jolting to long-time fans who remember how the ACC used to be. Maryland's Big Ten opener ended 68-66. With the help of two overtime periods. Ten years ago, the Terps opened ACC play with a 90-88 win over Florida State and averaged 82 points per game for the season. (They'll be lucky to average 70 this year.) Twenty years ago they opened with an 89-67 win over Georgia Tech and averaged nearly 87 points per game.
And 40 years ago? Well, the Terps began their conference season with a 99-78 win over Wake Foreset en route to averaging a mind-numbing, running-and-gunning, outlet-throwing, layup-making, defense-optional 89.9 points per game.
Of course, one might as well be talking about the Dead Ball Era in baseball. That time is far in the past and the ACC of today looks nothing like that. The likes of Syracuse, Virginia, Miami and Virginia Tech would fit right in today in the Big Ten — at least in terms of pace and scoring average, if not in physicality.
So maybe Maryland fans will adjust to life in the Big Ten just fine. Especially if the Terps' first foray into the league produces the team's first NCAA tournament appearance in five years.