It has been 1,826 days since the Maryland's men's basketball team last played in an NCAA Tournament game. On Friday, the Terrapins end that drought, taking on Valparaiso almost five years to the day of their last March Madness game, a gut-punch loss to Michigan State that, unbeknownst at the time, would send the Maryland program into a completely different direction that no one could have possibly imagined.
The pain from the loss to Michigan State is still fresh in the minds of Maryland fans. For many, even broaching the subject results in grimaces and a refusal to discuss it. Everyone knew that team was one of head coach Gary Williams's best opportunities to get back to a Final Four.
"Absolutely it still hurts," Maryland fan and Testudo Times legal expert Matthew Royack said. "We had a clear path to the Final Four, with a championship coach and an elite player."
The loss to Michigan State was the kind of terrible gift that kept on giving for the Maryland faithful. There was the initial shock of the loss, ending Maryland's season. Why didn't Tom Izzo call a timeout? Did he get the shot off in time? How did that ball not hit that MSU player in the head when they made that pass at the top of the key?
A short time later, there was that sudden realization that Greivis Vasquez's Maryland career was over.
Vasquez's last game as a Terrapins, against Michigan State. Photo: Steve Dykes, USA TODAY Sports
"I will always feel pain the most for Greivis," Maryland diehard Zach Nemser said. "That tourney was his chance at collegiate glory."
During his four-year run at Maryland, Vasquez went from a flashy freshman who would rub a lot of fans the wrong way to one that most ended up embracing and admiring due to his love and commitment to both his school and Gary Williams.
"This was Greivis's time," Nemser continued. "He had become a dominant player for a pretty good Maryland team. [Korie] Lucious hitting that shot was like a heavyweight champ getting beat on a lucky uppercut that slipped through the defense of a seasoned fighter. Greivis deserved that game. From the day he marched into Gary's office, saluted him, and said 'Reporting for duty, Sir!' He deserved that game."
Despite the loss being Vasquez's last game as a Terrapin, at least everyone knew his last game would happen at some point that season. What no one knew at the time was that the loss to Michigan State would also be Gary Williams's final NCAA Tournament appearance as the head coach of Maryland.
Williams announced his retirement 14 months later. For the Maryland faithful, Williams' retirement meant that the pain from the loss would once again rear its ugly head.
"That loss still stings," said Mark Rabinowitz, a Maryland fan who is frequently in attendance at the Xfinity Center. "That team was a prototypical Gary Williams team; well-balanced, had a lot of heart, led by Greivis Vasquez."
Eighteen months after his retirement, the University of Maryland announced plans to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference to join the Big Ten, a move that would become effective in July 2014. Now Maryland would have to face Michigan State on a regular basis, constantly being reminded of that loss.
But finally, five years after it happened, Maryland fans might finally get the closure they've been longing for when they take the court in an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since that horrid day in March 2010.
"This feels like a new era for Maryland basketball," Royack said. We've gone through the MSU dagger, Gary's retirement, and Turgeon's transition."
"If we beat Kentucky and make it to the Elite Eight, I won't even remember Michigan State," Rabinowitz said.
The Terps are finally ready to write the next chapter in their NCAA Tournament history. Regardless of what happens today, their most recent appearance in the Big Dance will finally no longer be that last second loss to Michigan State.