Dick Vitale Defends Turgeon, Opposes Expanded Tournament Recommendation
The college basketball season isn’t far behind the official start of Big Ten football as fans across the country bask in the return of sports. For Maryland, expectations aren’t as high as in previous years as head coach Mark Turgeon is tasked with replacing two star players in Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith but a core of Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Donta Scott provides optimism enough.
Maryland is projected to finish eleventh in the Big Ten, according to Lindy’s, while college basketball insider Jon Rothstein tabbed the Terps as tenth in his preseason rankings as he named his conference sleeper choice. Maryland claimed a share of the Big Ten regular season title a season ago, but three losses in the final five games of the 2019-20 season drew widespread criticism directed at Turgeon. College basketball analyst Dick Vitale joined Glenn Clark Radio on Thursday and came to the defense of Maryland’s head coach.
“The bottom line is when you make a point, I know I hear often, you got to realize this. You got to follow a legend, legend of all time named Gary Williams,” Vitale said. “Gary did such a phenomenal job, he was such a popular guy with the kids, the students, the alumni, he had that emotion, the passion, the personality so that makes it kind of tough. Mark has done a solid job, he’s a good basketball technician. I’m trying to remember this now, they won about 25 games last year, I think they lost one game if I remember, they lost one game at home, they shared the Big Ten title, closed 11-3 in their last 14 games. Slipped a little bit in the last couple but the bottom line is…basically the league is so tough, there’s no cupcakes. I don’t care if we go to Rutgers or wherever you want to play, Rutgers the resurgence of that program. Again, when you thought those games would be wins, not that easy and talk about playing Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa with Garza, it was really every game was a battle. I think people forget that, they want everybody to be undefeated and it just doesn’t happen. Now they lost key guys from last year in [Anthony] Cowan and [Jalen] Smith, but they’re coming back Donta Scott up front, Ayala, Morsell and some good recruits coming in but those veterans will have to step up because the conference this year is going to be even tougher.”
The Terps will hope the returning core can guide them into the NCAA tournament next season, but if the ACC has anything to say about that, making the tournament might not be the top priority for Maryland and other schools. A report earlier this month noted, led by Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the ACC would propose an expanded 2021 NCAA tournament that would include every Division I team. It’s an unprecedented move recommended in the midst of an unparalleled offseason that saw coaches and players struggle to consistently receive practice time. The rationale behind the decision is understood, but as Vitale connected with Krzyzewski ahead of the recommendation, the logistical concerns aren’t the only reason Vitale opposes the format.
“I’m not for it, I’ll be honest with you, I think you got to reward people that do well. I know it creates a problem because you made a great point there, Glenn, about the fact that how do you evaluate these mid-majors and all that, so the metrics become very difficult to do. I just think you got to reward teams that have great years. I think one thing that’s happened now with the tournament, we reward some teams for total mediocrity. The fact that they play in a conference, finish seventh or eighth in the conference, they basically go .500 and some under .500 and they get in the tournament. I don’t think that’s good; I’d rather have the team that played in a lighter conference, but they can’t get to play the big guys.”