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Kentucky Basketball: The Impact Of The Harrison's Decision Today

Andy Katz had a very painful (well, if you're a Maryland Terrapins fan) analysis of the impact of the decision by Aaron and Andrew Harrison on their college of choice today:

1. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon made his final plea to the Harrison twins -- Andrew and Aaron -- on Wednesday with a visit in Texas, hoping they would commit to the Terps on Thursday at 5 p.m. on ESPNU. Turgeon has poured quite a bit of time since his arrival in College Park to try to lure the potentially game-changing brothers. If he loses, it will be to Kentucky, so he can’t really complain. But it will be hard for Maryland to come up with a plan B. The drop-off from the Harrison twins is quite steep. They have the potential to be ACC championship-caliber players -- much more than just recruits who will be solid players that keep Maryland in the mix. To add to the drama, Maryland plays Kentucky in the season opener for both schools at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 9. If Maryland lands the players, Kentucky will move on to the next big thing. If Kentucky gets the pair, it will be even more difficult for Turgeon and staff to go against UK, knowing that they couldn’t beat Big Blue off the court and possibly on it, as well. [my emphasis]

Yikes. The real effect here is the difference between an instant-impact recruitment that could give Turgeon a lot more panache with future star recruits, and the rather slow-but-steady approach that he has taken so far, and would likely be forced to continue if Maryland doesn't come out on top.

Kentucky, on the other hand, doesn't have that problem. A high-profile loss here is a comparatively minor setback (and I use the word "comparatively" advisedly, it would still be a big setback). That illustrates the difference between where Kentucky is in the continuum of basketball programs, and where Maryland currently resides.

I think Mark Turgeon is going a very solid job so far in College Park, and the program will be fine if things don't go his way with the Harrisions. The flip side is that if things do go his way, he takes a potential (but not necessarily assured) quantum leap up, depending on how well he is able to exploit one very high-profile success. Some coaches are able to do that, and others not so much. I know too little about Turgeon to speculate on how well he would handle it.

But what Katz is essentially saying is that the stakes are much higher for Maryland than for Kentucky, and I think that's true. The last-minute visit by Coach Turgeon to Houston would seem to reinforce this analysis. No matter what happens, Maryland has more to gain, and lose, than Kentucky does. This is not a knock against the Terps, it's just a statement of current college basketball reality.

The problem for Maryland is that even if the Harrisons do decide to take their talents to College Park, it likely doesn't put the Terps in the national discussion for the NCAA Tournament championship, but it probably would put them well into the top 25 for 2013-14. That will be a major factor, I suspect, in how this whole thing winds up, because Kentucky is almost certainly going to be a contender no matter which way it goes. You are either on the Big Blue bus, or you are likely to be run over by it.

Finally, no matter how this goes, how intense is the game going to be this year between Maryland and Kentucky at the Barclays Center? Hopefully both groups of fans can keep this in perspective, but the loser is likely to be feeling a little raw when game time comes around. It will make for an interesting contest, to be sure.