Finally, the most exciting and unpredictable sporting event of the year is upon us. No, I’m not talking about the Eagles’ recent offseason moves – I’ve done enough of that for one offseason. It’s March and even if you don’t follow college basketball, you still fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket or ten. I know I have and I was never a devoted college basketball fan until about three years ago. Like most teens growing up, sports fans or not, I started watching college basketball in March when the bracket came out and I only cared about the teams I picked to win each matchup. Now bear with me for a minute as I try to give you a background of my college basketball fandom.
When I first started attending the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, with a focus on sports broadcasting, I decided it was best to pay attention to and consume most, if not all, sports on a year-round basis. This is when college basketball struck my interest and quickly challenged the stalwarts of the NFL and MLB as my favorite sports to watch. Our school’s men’s basketball team, the Maryland Terrapins (scary nickname, I know) were decent enough to care about. However, you knew the team wasn’t living up to expectations when attending games became more about being part of “the student section” than watching a team try to win games.
For perspective, the only thing I knew about Maryland basketball before stepping foot in College Park in the fall of 2011 was that they almost upset the great Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans the year before in the tournament. Besides that, I also had heard the students tried to piggyback on the famous rivalry between Duke and North Carolina. In reality, though, the Terps were cemented in the bottom-half of the ACC as they failed each and every year to reach the Big Dance while I was an undergraduate student on campus. My Maryland-born-and-raised friends couldn’t reason why their beloved Terps broke so many hearts every March – not even sniffing the First Four. Some blamed it on legend coach Gary Williams’ departure in 2011 and the subsequent trials that newcomer Mark Turgeon had to overcome both in the conference-level of play and in recruiting.
Whatever the reason, it turns out all the team needed was a change of scenery – a big change.
Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten and was forced to adjust to life, and new competition, in a new conference on the fly. The 2014-15 season was the school’s first as members of a different conference than the ACC since 1953 when Maryland was one of its original charter members.
Fast forward to 2015 and, for the first time in my four years as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, the Maryland Terrapins will participate in the annual NCAA Tournament at long last. As a senior getting ready to graduate in May – I’m just glad I could see my team compete meaningfully in March in what may be my last as a faithful cheerleader. Reality will set in, I will have to remain unbiased in my opinion of the Terps as a sports journalist should, and my level of fandom will never be as high until I either retire or change careers – neither of which I see occurring for some time.