Gary Williams played for Maryland in the mid-1960s and coached there from 1989 to 2011. He led the Terrapins to three ACC regular-season championships, one ACC Tournament championship, one national championship and was a two-time ACC Coach of the Year.
That’s quite the ACC career.
Maryland, though, moved to the Big Ten in 2014.
“Well, about that time, everything changed,” Williams said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “The ACC blew up into a 14-team league, and our rivalry in basketball was always Carolina and Duke. Carolina, Duke’s their rival, but for our fans, it was playing against Duke and Carolina. If we would have stayed in the league, we wouldn’t have played Carolina and Duke twice a year. That’s part of the schedule.”
Maryland had some epic battles with Duke and North Carolina over the years, especially in the early-mid 2000s. But those rivalries were casualties of realignment.
“Going to the Big Ten financially was a very good move for Maryland,” Williams said. “The Big Ten Network certainly has a lot to do with that. You miss the rivalry we just talked about, but at the same time for football, when you play Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin every year, that’s a pretty good football schedule. That’s going to help the football program at Maryland. The old diehard ACC fans – and I’m one of them – you miss the competition, but at the same time, it’s not the same time when you see Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville (and teams like that) in the ACC. It’s a great basketball conference. Always will be.”
Maryland has played in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three seasons and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2016. Some traditionally elite Big Ten programs had subpar seasons this year, but Williams, 72, doesn’t see that becoming a trend.
“The Big Ten has been down a little bit, but you look at the tradition there with Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State – teams like that – there’s no reason it’s going to stay that way,” Williams said. “Things change. A couple recruits here and there certainly change things quickly.”
As for Monday’s finale, Williams believes that North Carolina (32-7) will hold off Gonzaga (37-1) to give Roy Williams his third national title.
“I’m going with Carolina’s experience,” Williams said. “Mark Few is a good friend. So is Roy Williams. But at the same time, we went through it. We lost to the semis to Duke in 2001 and came back and won it in 2002. I think Carolina might do the same thing after losing last year.”