Sunday's basketball game versus Clemson will be the last in a long, if largely uninteresting, series with the football school from South Carolina. Maryland leads 90-49 all time, including winning the last four games.
For many Maryland fans, the most memorable basketball match-ups with Clemson were notable for a negative reason. The Terps lost to the Tigers three times in the 2005 season, including in the first round of the ACC tournament, in Washington, D.C., contributing mightily to ending Maryland's 11-year NCAA tournament streak. Maryland ended that season 19-13, while Clemson had a 16-16 record. To quote Dave Tucker, "They did to us in basketball what we did to then in football...winning when they shouldn't."
For me, the last basketball game against Clemson holds a much different meaning. As I mentioned before, I grew up in New York with no real college basketball allegiance. When I was accepted to Maryland, not only did I become a Terrapins fan, my father did as well. I get all of my sports fan tendencies from my father, but when it came to college sports and Maryland, for the first time in my life, he was following my lead.
During my freshman year (2009-10), we made sure that we saw one game of every major Maryland sports team together. He came down from New York for the soccer game against Virginia Tech (a game that Maryland trailed 1-0 in the final 10 minutes, scored twice and won), the football game against Virginia (that awful, rainy, terribly played game that Maryland lost 20-9) and, finally, the basketball game against Clemson.
After losing at Duke 77-56, Greivis Vasquez and the Terps had won three straight games coming into the showdown with a very good Clemson team at Comcast. The Tigers would end up in the NCAA tournament that season and had a roster with players like Trevor Booker, Jerai Grant and Devin Booker.
Clemson controlled most of the game while Vasquez was having and off-shooting night. That was, until this happened.
The Terps have had many 12-0 runs in games before this, many after, and will have many again in the future, but for some reason this one has stuck with the fan base. Maybe it's because this was Vasquez at his absolute peak as a player and showman. Maybe because it was a run to spark not only a win versus Clemson, but immediately preceded two epic wins, one at Virginia Tech where Vasquez scored 44 in overtime and, of course, the Senior Night Duke Game.
I remember that 12-0 run vividly, watching with my father from literally the last row at the top of Comcast Center. To this day it is the only Maryland basketball game I've seen while not in the student section. When Vasquez stole the ball and dunked it, as the arena was rocking and the crowd came to it's feet, my dad was celebrating like he had been a Terps fan all his life. He turned to me and said, "Man, I gotta get to college games more often, this is amazing."
Eight months later, almost to the day, my father passed away suddenly. My most lasting memories of him tend to revolve around sports. Watching the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots, just us in our basement while a Super Bowl party took place in the living room above. Watching the 8th-seeded Knicks insane run to the NBA Finals. Going to both Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana's first starts as Mets in Shea Stadium. And the final memory, the only college basketball game he would ever see, in Comcast, against Clemson.
Sports are a weird and unique thing. Inherently they have no real meaning, no real reason to care if you aren't directly involved. The meaning is completely dependent on the viewer and the circumstance. For me, while there have been so many objectively more important Maryland basketball games over the years, one means the most.