It was 1,402 days ago. I still remember the end of that game on March 21, 2010. Maryland had been down by 16 in the second half of their NCAA Tournament game against Michigan State, but a furious comeback led by Greivis Vasquez pulled the Terps back into the game. Vasquez hit a shot with 6.6 seconds left and Maryland pulled ahead by one. Then the gut punch came. The shot that still haunts me, as Lucious catches a pass at the top right of the key, shoots, and swishes in a three that not only ends Maryland's season, but the career of Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne. It was also Gary Williams' last shot at making an NCAA tourney run. And it was also Maryland's last trip to the big dance. Maryland fans want to forget that game, but we can't really until the Terps get back into the big dance.
That's part of the reason why frustration is starting to boil over for a lot of Terrapin nation as the loses continue to mount. When you begin the season by laying out expectations of making the NCAA tournament but your team's losses continue to mount, people are bound to become impatient, especially Maryland fans who are accustomed to being in the Big Dance year in and year out.
When Mark Turgeon was hired in 2011 to replace the retiring Gary Williams, analysts and coaches across the country were almost unanimous in saying that it was a great hire for Maryland. Most believed that with his recruiting ability and the hotbed of talent in the DMV area, Turgeon could quickly have the Terps back at the levels of success they enjoyed in the late 90s and early 2000s. After two years of restocking the cupboard, this year was supposed to be the year that Maryland returned to the NCAA promise land. This was the year we'd finally, after four years, be able to bury our last NCAA tournament memory, the one that still haunted us every March when we'd hear CBS's familiar tourney theme song every time we'd turn on the television. But after Monday's loss to N.C. State, a team Maryland led by nine at halftime and who was playing without ACC leading scorer T.J. Warren, most Maryland fans are coming to the realization that this isn't going to be the year that the Terps are one again among those 64 (err, 68) special teams this March.
Unfortunately, it goes beyond that; this team has a lot of talent, but they're failing to execute, continually committing mental mistakes, and not playing fundamental basketball. They're currently ranked 276th nationally in free throw shooting percentage and that was prior to Monday's 5/13 performance at the charity stripe. They're routinely struggling with perimeter defense, allowing NC State's only player with a decent outside shot to drain five three pointers and score 23 points. Literally everyone else for State missed every three point attempt and Maryland still couldn't shut down the one person who was a threat to them from beyond the arc. You watch and want to pull your hair out.
You keep hoping that they'll just figure it out, play better, and go on a run. But each time they seem to take a step forward (i.e. Notre Dame), they take two steps backward (N.C State). They're consistently inconsistent this season. Is it player execution? Is it coaching? Is it all of the above? Wherever the blame lies, what is becoming increasingly clear is that we're going to be waiting at least another 365+ days for Maryland to return to the big dance. And that's going to make a lot of people unhappy.