Posted November 23, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Keeler: ACC will be fine without Maryland

Tommy Keeler

The Atlantic Coast Conference took a hit this week, when one of its founding members -- Maryland -- left for the Big Ten, or should I say Big 14.

However, I'm not sure that this is all bad for the ACC.

I have mixed emotions about Maryland leaving. On one hand they are one of the oldest members of the conference, and I'd hate to see a long-time member leave. The ACC is one of the few conferences that has been able to keep from having schools depart, and in fact has been adding more over the last few years.

I think Maryland has been good for the ACC, overall. They have had some good basketball teams, and they have had a few decent football teams as well. Maryland and Virginia have had a good rivalry over the years, and in some sports Maryand and Duke have as well.

This brings me to why, I personally, wouldn't mind seeing Maryland leave. I am a die-hard Duke fan and more of a basketball fan than a football fan (kind of the norm for a Duke fan, despite the Blue Devils being Bowl eligible this season).

Yes, Maryland has done well in basketball, but if the ACC were able to pick up Connecticut, and there are rumors this could happen, that would make the conference better in basketball. The Blue Devils could still play the Terrapins in many, if not all, sports if they choose to do so.

Even without former head men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun the Huskies should have a solid program for years to come. You throw them in the conference with Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame, who will all be joining the ACC soon, and the ACC would be by far the best conference in the country in men's basketball.

Of course, picking up UConn would make the ACC look a lot like the old Big East, but there's nothing wrong with that considering that it was by far the best conference in the country just five years ago.

The move would also make the ACC the best women's basketball conference in the country. The Huskies are the top program in the country and with Notre Dame also set to join, it's possible the entire Final Four could come from the ACC in a few years. This past week the ACC had eight of the top 25-ranked recruiting classes in the country, including the top two with North Carolina and Duke.

Again as a Duke fan I would love this move. To be the best you have to beat the best, and I love the idea of Duke playing teams such as UConn, who they typically play once a year, and Notre Dame twice a year in the regular season.

The ACC could also pick up Louisville, who also has a very strong men's and women's program.

The bottom line is I am a big fan of the ACC, and I want to see the conference continue to grow and prosper. I don't think there's much question that there will eventually be a bunch of superconferences in college sports, most likely with 16 teams in each. The ACC seems to already be thinking about this, and they are trying to make sure they have the best teams they can get. I think they have managed to stay one step ahead of things and will continue to do so.

A big key will be to keep the teams that are really good in football, which include the Florida schools and Virginia Tech (well, they're usually good).

As much as I love basketball, football is still what matters most in the world of college sports. That's where the real money is made. The ACC has to be able to stay relevant in the world of college football or they will get left behind.

If they can manage to do that and also turn into the top conference in both men's and women's basketball then they will be the conference sitting on top once all the superconferences have been formed.

So, even though I will miss Duke's basketball rivalry with the Terps, and the Blue Devils beating up on them year after year, I think this week's move will lead to much better things for the ACC. I'm looking forward to seeing how things shake out and watching my favorite conference rise to the top once again.

Contact assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com

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