NCAA Tournament Gameday Thread -#10 Terps vs. #7 Cal

3/18/2009 8:01:12 PM I must say that I very much enjoyed writing this headline.  It's been a rocky road for Gary Williams and the Terps.  A road that has been dissected and analyzed to death by everyone in the state of Maryland and beyond.  None of that matters now.

Today's game is why the players play and why us fans watch.  The first round of the NCAA Tournament is a gift to us all.  It is the best sports day of the year and it is made all the sweeter when your alma mater is a participant.

For 13 of the last 16 years; the Maryland Terrapins have been a part of the Tournament.  It's funny how those 3 years weigh so heavily on the fan base.   I've often wondered why Maryland fans (myself included) have such passion that such tremendous success can be met with such tepid enthusiasm.

Imagine for a moment that the Baltimore Ravens or Washington Redskins had made the playoffs with such consistency as the Terps?  How many angry fans do you think there would be in their respective fan bases?  There answer is hardly any of course.

So why are the Terps so underappreciated?  Over the years, I've come to a few conclusions about why Terp fans are so passionate and impatient.

1.  Most of us are/were Terps.  Everyone who goes to Maryland is a Terp.  The players are students. We are them and they are us.

2. Maryland is the only major Division I college in the state.  The Terps have no competition in the State of Maryland (sorry Towson and Navy).  Professional sports effectively bifurcate the state.  The DC folks follow the Skins, Nationals, and Wizards.  Baltimoreans like myself follow the Ravens and the Orioles.  But everyone is a Terp fan.

3. The Terps are underdogs.  Since the dawn of time; it has seemed that the best we could hope for is third fiddle status in the ACC. Gary Williams brought us to the brink of conference primacy.  Sure, we have backed off a little since our apex; but the Terps have been trying to slay two dragons for 30+ years.  Who wouldn't want to get behind that?  Underdogs are as American as apple pie.

So, for all these reasons; today's game is something to savor.  The Terps are once again thrust upon the national stage. It is a welcome return for our boys; but something about this year feels different.

If you look back across the last 16 years; you will not find a team like the 2009 Terps.  Arguably, this is Gary Williams' least talented squad. However, no team has gotten more out of less than these guys.

Even when Joe Smith was patrolling the paint; I have not seen a team so dependent on one player as these Terps depend on Greivis Vazquez.   Yet, Vazquez is not universally loved by Maryland fans (some hate him). A bit odd don't you think?

Here's another oddity to chew on:  this is probably Gary's smartest team; but they have lost some games because they weren't mentally tough enough to hold on to big leads.  We as fans are confused by this team.  I think even the players are confused by their Jeckyl and Hyde nature. But here we are.

I have no doubt that the Terps will give us a performance to be proud of today.  They have worked too hard to get here to let it just fade away with a whimper.

I don't know much about the Cal Bears.  What I do know is that they better come to play today if they want to make it to the weekend.
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