There are names that are synonymous with NCAA Tournament history.
Christian Laettner, James Forrest, Tyus Edney, Bryce Drew, Drew Nicholas and just days ago Danero Thomas are amongst a group of players who have all given basketball fans a lifetime of memories thanks to individual shots during the absolute greatest event we have the privilege to enjoy as sports fans.
As of Sunday, Korie Lucious now adds his name to that list.
Unfortunately, that means that Maryland fans now are forced to see the other side.
When Christian Laettner daggered Kentucky in Philadelphia, there were thousands of Wildcats fans who truly believed they were going to get to see their team win a NCAA title.
When James Forrest had a prayer answered in Round 2, fans of the USC Trojans had already purchased flights and tickets for the Sweet 16.
When Tyus Edney went coast to coast to beat Missouri, fans of the Tigers were already thinking about how they had ended the National Title hopes of the great UCLA Bruins.
When Bryce Drew landed a miraculous bomb against Ole Miss, Rebels fans were thinking that they had survived a scare from Valparaiso and were ready to make a deep run through the Tournament.
When Drew Nicholas connected on one of the more miraculous shots in college basketball history, fans of UNC-Wilmington had already started texting each other about the improbability of joining Princeton on the list of teams who had eliminated defending national champions in Round 1.
When Danero Thomas beat the buzzer to burst Vanderbilt just days ago, fans of the Commodores were already looking at how the bracket might open up for them, and thinking about what they might be able to do against Syracuse in the Sweet 16.
And when Korie Lucious turned a miracle finish for his opponents into a miracle finish for Michigan State, Maryland fans……probably haven’t been able to bounce back yet.
It doesn’t seem fair.
After being thoroughly outplayed for 38 minutes, the Maryland Terrapins showed an incredible amount of poise and heart in forging ahead of Michigan State late, only to see the Spartans win things 85-83 on a buzzer beating 3 ball from Lucious.
It SHOULDN’T have ended that way for Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne. It shouldn’t have ended that way for a Maryland team that gave fans a season’s worth of memories unlike any Maryland team since the 2001-2002 National Championship squad.
Yet, it did.
And it did for those players at Kentucky. And for those players at USC. And Missouri. And….you get the point.
For every moment that reminds us as basketball fans of just why the NCAA Tournament is truly the greatest month in all of sports, there are a group of fans who can’t stomach even the thought of those moments.
For every time we’re reminded of just how amazing Harold “The Show” Arceneaux was for Weber State, there are a group of North Carolina fans who experience heartbreak all over again.
For every time we think about just how intense the final few moments of the Duke-UConn title game were before the Huskies were victorious, there are a group of Duke fans who can’t believe Coach K’s most talented team didn’t win a title. Maryland fans remember the 2002 Elite 8 classic inside the Carrier Dome as one of the greatest games in college basketball history. Those Huskies fans remember it as a nightmare.
Of course, those same Huskies fans still remember the elation of Tate George, while Clemson would be fine with never hearing that name again.
The closest Maryland fans have come to feeling the other side was in 2001, when the Terps built a 22 point advantage over Duke in a Final Four showdown in Minneapolis before crumbling in the 2nd half.
For some reason, the dagger knocked down by Lucious has a more heartbreaking feeling. Maybe it is because Maryland fans knew Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Steve Blake would be back to make another run at a national championship; while Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes have played their final game in a Maryland uniform. Maybe it’s because Maryland had put together such a furious rally and gotten a possibly heroic shot from Vasquez just seconds before Lucious would deliver the dagger.
Whatever the reason, the heartbreak is greater.
But the heartbreak of the NCAA Tournament is the glory of the NCAA Tournament.
Everything was on the line in Spokane. A group of young men battled knowing that if they lost, their season was over.
It’s hard to remember on a day like Sunday that THIS is why we love the NCAA Tournament, but it most certainly is.
It’s just not the feeling we were hoping for right now.