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Top of the Arc - November 30, 2008

Nov. 30, 8:33 a.m.: While Thursday’s victory over Michigan State will likely mean more for Maryland’s NCAA tournament resume, a win today against Georgetown would mean everything for Terrapins Coach Gary Williams.

Over the past few years, all Williams heard was how Georgetown can recruit and he can’t, how the Hoyas built a national contender and his program became a perennial NIT mainstay. Whether Williams wants to admit it publicly or not, those sentiments rankled him. He was tired of hearing it.

Both coaches can downplay the hype. They can talk about playing respective rivals in the ACC and Big East. Don’t buy it. If Maryland wins today, Williams will mention the Georgetown victory every time his mouth moves, and he would have good reason to.

In this market, Maryland has played in Georgetown’s shadow the last few years. The Hoyas challenged for the national title. Maryland proved capable of beating a top team on occasion but ultimately falling into mediocrity.

No team that has won a national title in the past 15 years has seen its program decline as quickly as Maryland’s has. Williams will dispute that, but name me another. Maryland became less relevant on the recruiting front. Williams failed to cultivate strong relationships with a select group of elite AAU coaches.

In one sense, who can blame him? While most AAU coaches are upstanding individuals, some view players as lottery tickets and are angling for their own jobs as college assistants. In another sense, the unwillingness to play the modern recruiting game, which at times can involve operating in a moral gray area, was one of many reasons why Maryland’s recruiting has suffered in recent years. Significant turnover among assistants also played a role.

Georgetown, meantime, has rebuilt its national name. And the Hoyas have not only dominated recruiting in the area, but John Thompson III can go into Harvey, La., and pry Monroe from the coaching hands of Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun and Tim Floyd. In the recruiting world, the names Georgetown and Maryland are not close in terms of relevancy anymore.

On the court, Maryland wouldn’t have been able to compete with Georgetown the last few years. The Hoyas still hold a significant advantage in the frontcourt, but few are counting the Terps out tonight because of how they dismantled Michigan State. It is still early in the season, but it is not time to dial down the hype.

A lot more than bragging rights are on the line. For one fiery coach, he can take a big step toward changing the perception of his program in this area.

For more coverage on the game, check out Terrapins Insider, where Maryland beat writer Steve Yanda will provide updates and analysis.

By Eric Prisbell  |  November 30, 2008; 8:33 AM ET
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Gary and JT III can downplay this game all they want. Being a Terp alum from the Elmore era, we played Georgetown every year when we had top 5 teams. Lefty gave bad Georgetown teams a shot. After the famous Joe Smith coming out party at Landover, Georgetown acted like any spoiled little rich kid and left the playground taking his ball with him! What happend to the return game in College Park?

Posted by: donmac1 | November 30, 2008 9:27 AM

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