The Maryland Terrapins advanced to the Sweet 16 Sunday evening, defeating 13-seed Hawaii 73-60, to advance out of the first weekend of the tournament for the first time since the 2002-2003 season. It's hard to believe that since cutting down the nets in 2002, this marks just the second time the Terps have advanced past the round of 32 in the subsequent 14 years.
It's been a long 13 years for Maryland fans: the end of the Gary Williams era; switching from the ACC to the Big Ten; and suffering through four-straight years of not making the NCAA Tournament are just a few of the frustrations that come to mind.
Let's take a look at what the sports landscape was like when Maryland last made the Sweet 16, thanks to pop-culture.us:
Super Bowl champions: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
World Series champions: Florida Marlins (they were still the Florida Marlins)
NBA champions: San Antonio Spurs (they've been good for a long time)
Stanley Cup champions: New Jersey Devils
NCAA football champions: USC
NCAA basketball champions: Syracuse
Other notable highlights from 2003 include: 'American Idol' being the most popular television show; 'Finding Nemo' and 'Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' as two of the nation's most popular movies; and 'Crazy in Love' sitting at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Charts.
Maryland has certainly had its chances to get to the Sweet 16 since it was last there in 2003. In their six NCAA Tournament appearances since 2003, the Terps have won their opening round game each time. But until their win over Hawaii on Sunday, they'd lost five straight games in the Round of 32, many in heartbreaking fashion:
Lost, 72-70 to Syracuse in 2004
Lost, 62-59 to Butler in 2007
Lost, 89-70 to Memphis in 2009
Lost, 85-83 to Michigan State in 2010
Lost 69-59 to West Virginia in 2015
Most of us can remember at least one of those losses. Each of them hurt in their own unique way. The best and worst part about the NCAA Tournament is that you either continue to fight another day or your season ends, often times abruptly. For me, the worst of those five losses was the 2010 buzzer-beater against Michigan State. That game ended the career of Greivis Vasquez, it was Gary Williams' best chance to get back to the Final Four and was also his last NCAA Tournament appearance before retiring. It still haunts me, especially with Maryland now being in the Big Ten.
But tonight, finally, after years of waiting, the Terrapins get to continue their season into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The win over Hawaii helps to put some of those past loses in the rear view mirror. It helps transition away from the Gary Williams era and into what we all dream is a renaissance for Maryland basketball. Let's hope they continue the run and that we don't have to wait another 13 years for them to do it again.