Maryland, Rutgers a boost for Big 10 women's basketball
The obvious answer is money and East Coast exposure.
That's what Rutgers and Maryland bring to the Big Ten, which added both schools to the conference within the last week.
Hello New York City and Washington D.C. television markets!
After that, though, the value of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten might not be so obvious, unless you're a big women's basketball fan.
When football and men's basketball, the biggest money sports of all, are put under the microscope, the head-scratching begins. Does either of these two schools really fit the Big Ten mold?
The Rutgers football team is ranked No. 21 in the current Associated Press Top 25 poll and No. 18 in the BCS standings, but there is not a Michigan or an Ohio State type of tradition with that program. Not even close.
Also, the men's basketball program there has had a losing record in 13 of the last 17 seasons.
Meanwhile, Maryland football isn't a perennial powerhouse either. The Terps have had three winning seasons in the last eight years and finished 2-10 in two of the last three seasons. The men's basketball team there has had its moments, particularly its NCAA championship in 2002.
But in the last nine years only twice has it finished higher than fifth in the ACC.
From a purely competitive standpoint, the Big Ten's biggest win in this expansion might be in women's hoops.
Both Rutgers and Maryland have been perennial Top 25 teams in women's basketball over the last decade or so. And both are getting national attention this season. Maryland is ranked 10th in the current AP Top 25 poll, while Rutgers is receiving votes.
Rutgers has had 20-win seasons 12 times in the last 14 seasons and has been to two Final Fours since 2000 (2000 and 2007). Meanwhile, Maryland has averaged 25 wins a season since 2003 and won the NCAA championship in 2006.
The Big Ten is about to get a shot in the arm. It's already a quality women's basketball conference. Adding teams such as Rutgers and Maryland will raise the league's profile.
On top of that, the Big Ten is gaining two big-name coaches, who, ironically enough, will be making a return to the conference.
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer built the foundation of her storied 41-year career at Iowa. She was the head coach there from 1983 to 1995 and turned the Hawkeyes into a Big Ten and national power. In 1993, Iowa advanced to the Final Four.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese had a short but sweet stay in the Big Ten. After two seasons at Ball State in which she rolled up 35 wins, she was snatched up by Minnesota in 2002.
That year the Gophers finished 22-8 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
By the end of that season, Frese was being snatched up again. Maryland came calling, and she has been there for 11 years.
My prediction is that both Stringer and Frese will transition back to the Big Ten easily. And their teams will fit in quite nicely as well.
How long it will take the other teams at Rutgers and Maryland to do the same in the rugged Big Ten is anyone's guess. But, hey, the television ratings in the meantime might be pretty good.