Earlier this week, the ACC assigned "rivals" to conference members to play annual home-and-home series in basketball. The ACC paired the Maryland Terrapins with a long-time rival. A team so despised that the mere mention of its name elicits a chorus of boos from the Comcast Center faithful. The Pittsburgh Panthers.
Oh, wait. Maryland has no existing rivalry with Pitt. The Terps got screwed. Maryland, a charter member of the ACC, will now be "rivals" with a school that has never played a conference game in the state of North Carolina. Most Terp fans and alumni reacted quickly and negatively to the news, but with a few days to think it over, maybe the Pitt rivalry will work out.
Maryland and Pitt recruit the same kids. As much as the hope is that Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and his team of high-profile assistant coaches will improve recruiting in College Park, the Terps rarely bring in five-star recruits. Generally, those kids go to Duke or North Carolina.
Guess who operates in the same space? Pitt. The Panthers get kids that aren't going to Syracuse or UConn. Pitt rarely has players go pro early, much like Maryland. Or at least Maryland has kids that shouldn't go pro early, even if they sometimes still do. (Hello, Jordan Williams.)
If Maryland can consistently beat Pitt -- no easy task -- the Terps can reclaim a permanent perch in the Top 20. Since the Maryland program peaked in the early 2000s, Pitt has generally been the higher ranked team. Pitt's coach Jamie Dixon is widely respected. A rivalry between Dixon and Turgeon could extend on and off the court.
I'm admittedly reaching, but there are regional rivalries in play here, too. Most Redskins fans hate the Steelers, and Ravens fans definitely hate the Steelers. The Maryland fan base is largely made up of both Skins and Ravens fans. And don't forget how much Caps and Pens hate each other, either.
It won't happen overnight, but the Maryland-Pittsburgh rivalry could grow. Sadly, Maryland never had fully joined rivalry with the Tobacco Road crowd. Sure, the games against Duke brought out the best (and at times worst) in Maryland fans, but everyone knew that Duke's true rival was Carolina and vice versa.
Maryland deserves a true rival. The process is far from perfect, but there is potential. I'll get things started: Pitt sucks!