Men’s Basketball | GU, UMD Will Revive Rivalry in 2016

FILE PHOTO: CLAIRE SOISSON/THE HOYA Head Coach John Thompson III anticipates that the renewal of the local rivalry with Maryland will strengtthen the Hoyas’ non-conference schedule.

Head Coach John Thompson III anticipates that the renewal of the local rivalry with Maryland will strengtthen the Hoyas’ non-conference schedule.

College Park, Md., home to the University of Maryland, sits less than nine miles from the front gates of Georgetown. If a Hoya fan hopped on the Metro after a 7 p.m. game at Verizon Center, he or she could take the green or yellow line to Maryland’s Xfinity Center in time to catch the second half of the Terps’ nightcap.

But for much of the last 35 years, College Park might as well have been Beijing. Despite competing as the two premier college basketball programs in the talent-heavy Washington, D.C. metro area, Georgetown and Maryland have played each other only three times since 1980.

It was a notable piece of news therefore, when the two schools announced Tuesday that they had scheduled a game in each of the next two seasons. Georgetown will travel to Xfinity Center later this year on Nov. 17 and Maryland will return the favor during the 2016-2017 season at Verizon Center. Both matchups will be a part of the Dave Gavitt Tipoff Games, a series of early-season contests pitting eight schools from the Big East against eight schools from the Big Ten.

“Maryland strengthens Washington, D.C. as a leading college basketball city in the country,” Georgetown Director of Athletics Lee Reed said. “The Gavitt Tipoff Games feature two of the top conferences in the country and will be a great week for college basketball.”

Meetings between Georgetown and Maryland used to occur with far more frequency. The two teams played 57 times from 1935 to 1980, but since then have met only in the 1993 regular season, the 2001 Sweet 16 and the 2008 Old Spice Classic. The Terps won in 1993 and again in 2001 en route to the Final Four, but the Hoyas currently hold bragging rights, having romped to a 75-48 victory in 2008.

“Our programs share a great deal of history,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “Memories of Pops and Lefty, Merlin Wilson and Tom McMillen, Craig Shelton and Buck Williams, Allen Iverson and Joe Smith, Greg Monroe and Greivis Vasquez and many, many more dance in our heads.”

From a marketing standpoint, the rivalry’s renewal could hardly have come at a better time, as both teams are projected to be among the best in the nation next season.

Maryland returns the bulk of the talent from a team that spent much of the past season ranked in the top 20, earned a five seed in the NCAA Tournament, and lost to West Virginia in the round of 32. The Terps were led by the superb play of freshman guard Melo Trimble, a former local high school rival of Georgetown freshman guard Tre Campbell, who averaged 16.2 points per game and shot 41.2 percent from behind the arc.

Both Trimble and junior forward Jake Layman would likely have been selected had they declared for the NBA Draft, but both elected to return for another season in College Park. They will be joined by consensus top-10 recruit Diamond Stone, a center from Milwaukee, Wis., as well as forward Robert Carter, who sat out this past season after transferring from Georgia Tech, where he averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

Barring an unforeseen development, Maryland will be ranked inside the top five when the preseason polls come out in the fall.

Georgetown will also expect to appear in those polls, although likely 10 to 15 spots lower than the Terps. The Hoyas were buoyed recently by the news that junior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera would return for his senior season rather than enter the NBA Draft as he originally announced. He will be joined by an incredibly talented group of rising sophomores, as well as a top-25 recruiting class.

Looking at Georgetown’s non conference schedule as a whole, the Maryland contest will be only one of what figure to be a gauntlet of games. The Hoyas will also face former Big East rivals Syracuse and Connecticut and will compete in the 2K Sports Classic along with National Championship game participants Duke and Wisconsin in addition to Virginia Commonwealth.

“It is a loaded deck,” Thompson said. “We never back down from a challenge and I like testing our guys in out of conference play.”

But aside from the Syracuse matchup, no game will generate as much hype as the trip to College Park. The renewal of the local rivalry is something college basketball fans across the country have looked forward to for a long time.

“The time is right to make new memories,” Thompson said. “We are excited.”

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