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East Coast Bias: Penn State gains recruiting steam and Rutgers has a swanky new court design

Plus Maryland appears to be zeroing in on a marquee non-conference matchup for next season

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Tennessee vs Loyola Chicago Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hot as hell out and we’re still a longggg five months away from college basketball coming back into our lives. But thankfully covering sports is a year-round endeavor these days, so let’s dive into our kinda semi-weekly look in at what’s going on at Penn State, Rutgers, and Maryland.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions received some good news on the recruiting trail recently, as 2019 combo guard Joe Girard III named Penn State as one of the six schools still in contention to land the four-star’s services.

Joining Penn State on the list of potential destinations are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Duke Blue Devils, Boston College Eagles, Michigan Wolverines, and Syracuse Orange - the latter of which hosted Girard on an official visit this weekend.

Girard has long been a top target for Patrick Chambers and would, from a recruiting rankings standpoint, be the Lions highest rated commit since now-New Orleans Pelican Tony Carr joined the program in 2016.

Armed with a new four-year extension, the 2019 class is shaping up as a crucial one for coach Chambers as he continues his quest to raise his program’s profile from Big Ten also-ran to consistent contender.

To that point, it appears Chambers has phoned-a-friend for help in Girard’s recruitment, with the Glenn Falls, N.Y. native recently noting he’s heard from Penn State’s football program about potentially suiting up in basic blues and black shoes should he decide to make the move to Happy Valley.

And while James Franklin isn’t officially recruiting Girard, an accomplished high school quarterback in his own right, the fact that he was asked to throw for them is an interesting development.

At the very least, it’s an added wrinkle and intriguing incentive for Patrick Chambers to have on the table as he looks to out muscle some college hoops blue-bloods and land a marquee recruit in this upcoming class.

Rutgers: In a continued effort to rebrand its basketball program, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights recently announced a brand new court design for the upcoming 2018-’19 season.

And, if I’m being honest, I kinda sorta love it.

It’s eye-grabbing but not in an obnoxious way. The use of two-tones of wood compliments the scarlet keys and the watermark of New Jersey is a subtle reminder of which state university calls The Rac home.

Granted, having a swanky new floor isn’t going to drastically move the needle for the program the way grabbing a high-profile recruit would, but branding in sports goes a long way in elevating your relevance and generating some positive buzz.

Rutgers is a program that’s on the rise and could use some fresh juju. Feng shui-ing its court away from its former ‘meh’ cut-and-paste design is a nice way to help usher in a new era of Scarlet Knights basketball.

So while it might still take a few years for Steve Pikiell to get Rutgers contending for the postseason, the program at least has an immediate future on any ‘best court designs in the NCAA” lists. That’s a win for Rutgers, and if you have the recent history that it does, you’ll take any type of W you can.

Maryland: Things have been fairly quiet for the Terps since the dust settled on all the NBA Draft speculation surrounding Bruno Fernando and Kevin Huerter, however, one little intriguing nugget of information dropped Saturday afternoon thanks to a report from The Baltimore Sun.

According to The Sun’s Don Markus, Maryland is close to finalizing a non-conference game against last years Final Four Cinderella Loyola-Chicago.

While details are still being worked out, signs point to the Ramblers and Terps matching up in Baltimore at Royal Farms Arena. Taking a non-conference game off-campus is nothing new for Maryland, as Mark Turgeon brought his team to the Charm City in 2015 for a game against Princeton and again in 2016 in a matchup against Charlotte.

In Loyola-Chicago, however, Maryland would be facing its toughest test away from Xfinity Center, as the Ramblers should be super competitive next season even if all of its magic fairy dust has been washed away.

Kudos to coach Turgeon for (potentially) having the guts to schedule one of the nation’s strongest mid-major’s as more and more programs continue to dodge any David’s that have a chance to knock off one of the Power Five’s Goliath’s.