This post is sponsored by US Cellular.
I think everyone needs a little pick-me-up. Am I right?
Lest you forget that Maryland hasn't only been on the bad end of buzzer-beaters, there is a certain moment I'd like to remind you of, a certain moment that is to UNC-Wilmington fans what...you know...is to Maryland fans.
When asked by the good people at US Cellular what my favorite march memory is, the answer was easy: Drew Nicholas' buzzer-beater. While the national championship team had plenty of great games and exciting finishes, nothing compares to the nail-bitting, the emotional swing, and the sheer unlikelihood of Nicholas' buzzer-beater. This is why we love March, why we adore the tournament.
Drew Nicholas entered the Maryland program the same year as Steve Blake, one year later than Juan Dixon. He was unheralded upon arrival in College Park and, despite being a crucial piece of the national championship team and one of the best Terps in the past decade, was overshadowed his entire career - first by Dixon, and then Blake.
But not this game.
Blake would fall victim to foul trouble and score only 8 points in just 22 minutes. UNC-W - the Gonzaga or Butler of the day, having toppled 4 seed USC the previous year - rode Brett Blizzard and the sensational John Goldberry to surprising contention. Maryland, despite occasional leads that neared double digits, never put UNC-W away in the second half. Then Goldberry got hot and set an NCAA tournament record, going 8-8 from 3. The Seahawks never gave up, and were rewarded with a one point lead coming off two free throws with five seconds remaining.
The plan was for the ball to go to Blake, the unquestioned team leader. But UNC-W's defense didn't cooperate, denying him the ball on the inbound. It was instead Nicholas that received the pass, and he decided to wing it. "I took the ball as far as I could and tried to make something happen," Nicholas would say after the game. Well, something happened.
He sprinted cross court to the elbow and attempted a leaning, fade-away three with a hand in his face. The result? I'll let the video speak for itself:
Nicholas sprints off the court in euphoria. Half the team follows him, running into the area between the floor and the stands. He collapses, they mob him. Gary Williams has an idiosyncratic fist-pump/yell combination toward the UNC-W bench oddly reminiscent of Thad Matta's reaction to Evan Turner's recent buzzer-beater, only to be restrained by a young John Gilchrist. UNC-W's coach simply lies down on the ground, stunned by what he saw. Dazed, Seahawk players wander around the court. Equally dazed, so do some Terps.
I, and a few other thousand Terp fans, shout, scream, run around, and generally look ridiculous as bliss and exaltation suddenly rises to the surface.
The opposite of what happened on Sunday, essentially.
Maryland would ride that wave to an easy second round win over Xavier before falling in the Sweet Sixteen to Michigan State in a game as close as this one. But really, the aftermath doesn't matter - nothing could spoil the memory of Drew Nicholas' miracle leaner.
(P.S.: Things might look a little different around these parts today, and did yesterday. That's okay - the sponsor tabbed us for a reskin. You call it selling out - I call it an honor.)