Monday, March 05, 2007

Terps Get Back to the Tourney, You Gotta Be Happy

It’s Tournament Time, Lets Get Happy

To begin the column this week, I thought I would quote verbatim from a voice mail left for me by my friend Ron. Ron and I shared season tickets to Maryland basketball for many years. Some would say Ron is a pessimist. He likely prefers “realist.”

On Sunday night just after 6 pm., the brackets came out. Maryland was announced as the No. 4 seed in the Midwest with a first round tilt against Davidson. My first thought, Interesting, Lefty’s old school. My second thought, Dell Curry’s kid plays there … just read an article about him … No ACC school wanted him … scores a lot of points … I am already worried.

My cell phone rang. I let it go to voice mail, wasn’t ready for banter just yet. Plus, I wanted to hear what Ron would say, but didn’t necessarily want to talk. Not yet.

At first, he was all excitement and hope, speaking for every Terp fan when he said:

“You know, it’s exciting to be a part of this again, isn’t it? Really, the Terps can’t ask for anything more than they got. Two winnable games and then you take your shot at Florida (pause). I think we have to be happy.”

And then comes the reality check from my realist friend, who spoke again for most fans when he worried aloud, “I just hope we don’t lay an egg.”

Amen to that.

Whatever happens, like Ron said, it is exciting to be part of this again. Back in the brackets. Back in the conversation. I think he said it just right – “I think we have to be happy.”

See, there’s been a lot of unhappiness or discontent or whatever you want to call it around Maryland basketball the last couple of years. Taking the long view, missing out on the tournament twice in 14 years (Kevin – please double-check this stat, I think that’s right but not 100 percent sure) is not cause for alarm. Not hardly. Not even close. Most programs would take that in an instant, never mind the two Final Fours and, oh yeah, a national championship. But that was then. Everyone started freaking out when Maryland went 3-6 in the ACC this year, and started thinking ‘here we go again,’ and counted this team out with plenty of games to go.

But in the span of three fabulous weeks in February, Maryland emerged as the team we’d hoped they’d be for quite some time.

And yes, it is exciting. And, yes, we have to be happy. Well said Ron, really.

Getting over the ACC Tournament

How to explain Maryland’s awful performance in the ACC tournament? How do you lose to Miami? Again?

Here’s what I think … Let’s give the Terps a pass for that one. You have to think that playing for their postseason lives every game for three weeks took an enormous emotional toll.

And so, when Maryland went to Tampa (Tampa!?) for the ACC tournament (where is it next year, Hartford?) they were flat, had already locked up the season’s No. 1 goal, and faced a Miami team that for some reason, has their number. Maryland relaxed, made a nice comeback, but got beat.

(Was that one hard to watch or what? Excruciating.)

Frank Haith and the Hurricanes went 12-20 this year, losing to Buffalo, Cleveland State and Northwestern along the way, but somehow beat Maryland not once but twice, forcing the Terps into two of the ugliest games of the year.

For everyone’s mental health, let’s just chalk that one up to a bad match-up for whatever reason and move on with our lives.

How Far Can They Go?

Let’s cut to the chase already and talk about the only thing most Maryland fans care about when it comes to the NCAA tournament: How far can the Terps go? Let’s break it down:

Round one in Buffalo, Maryland plays a feisty Davidson team that is (wow!) 29-4 and has won (brace yourself) 25 of its last 26 games, many of them blowouts. These guys are a little scary. Their best player is the above referenced Stephen Curry, son of 16-year NBA veteran Dell, who averages better than 21 points per game and, guess what, he can shoot it. Stephen Curry has jacked up 285 three-pointers this year, making 117 (41 percent).

Something tells me D.J. Strawberry might be chasing this guy around quite a bit. Here’s the thing – there’s no big drop-off from the Majors to the Mid-Majors anymore. You think this kid Curry couldn’t score some points in the ACC? Of course he could.

The difference is that while Maryland was making its run against Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and Florida State, Davidson was whipping Furman, The Citadel and North Carolina-Greensboro. So who do you think is tougher?

Maryland wins it, but I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t a close game.

Moving on, the Terps would then face the winner of the bracket buster special, Butler vs. Old Dominion. No idea who will win that one, but regardless, Maryland will face a small conference team with big dreams.

To be honest, I hate the draw. It’s sneaky scary, and if you lose to Davidson, Butler or Old Dominion, well… you just lost to Davidson, Butler, or Old Dominion.

Hmmm… I realize I am a homer, but don’t see the Terps losing in the first or second round. Think of it this way, when Maryland got to Tampa for the ACC tournament, they took a deep breath. They had made it. They knew. Sure, it would have been great to improve their seed, but they didn’t have enough to play for, just one guy’s opinion.


Everything is on the line. These next few games will define the legacy of this group, especially the seniors, who haven’t been to the tournament since the John Gilchrist show in 2005. I see Maryland winning two games and running into Florida in the Sweet 16.

What will happen then? If you want an objective answer, you’re asking the wrong guy. C’mon Terps, it’s tourney time.

I think we have to be happy.