Harrison decision vital for Terrapins, not Cats

By Les Johns | @KernelJohns

The UK and Maryland basketball programs are squaring off twice in a little more than a month.

UK and Maryland tip off the college basketball season Friday Nov. 9, christening the Jay-Z-built Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

But a more prolific battle between the two basketball programs will take place Thursday  — a decision that will have Final Four implications, at least for one of the teams.

The Texas twins, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, will decide Thursday on ESPNU at 5 p.m. Thursday where they will play college basketball. Their final three choices are UK, Maryland and the barely-talked-about Southern Methodist.

Recruiting analysts believe the duo to be the biggest package deal in recent years, and that both Harrisons are can’t miss future NBA players who could conceivably lead their college team to a Final Four in their likely one-and-only year in college.

“Next year, when those two are in college, I can’t imagine they’ll play a backcourt better than them,” said Evan Daniels, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com told the USA Today.

The Harrisons are the top-two rated guards and the overall No. 3 and No. 4 ranked players of the 2013 class, according to Rivals.com.

Their impact would be huge, especially at Maryland.

Mark Turgeon is beginning his second year at the helm for the Terrapins, taking over for the retired Gary Williams.

Maryland won the national title in 2002, but have not lasted beyond the NCAA 2nd round since 2003.

Turgeon has been a head coach for 14 seasons (Jacksonville State, Wichita State, Texas A & M and now Maryland), and has advanced beyond the NCAA 2nd round just once, with the Wichita State Shockers in 2006.

In his first year at Maryland, Turgeon went 17-15 and the Terrapins missed the NCAA for the second consecutive year.

Maryland got the No. 14 rated class for 2012 according to Rivals.com, but none of their commits ranking in the top-50 nationally. No individual player in that class in a program-changer.

Thursday presents on opportunity for Turgeon to deliver an impact-player to the Maryland program – two of them, at that.

Turgeon needs to reel in the Harrisons to turbo-charge his program and give them immediate legitimacy in the elite basketball league that the ACC is becoming.

Simply put — this is a must have for Maryland.

For the Cats? Not so much.

Calipari has secured three consecutive No. 1 recruiting classes and nobody would suggest that the beat won’t go on regardless of what the Harrisons decide Thursday.

UK and Calipari have momentum on their side and a national championship directly in their rear-view mirror. Although reportedly not currently targeting any other guards for 2013, there is little doubt Calipari could adjust and still reel in a top-tier class with or without the Harrisons.

It typically isn’t Calipari left scrambling, however, as Maryland’s potential 2014 Final Four dreams may be dashed before the 2012-13 season even begins.