When I first heard the news that Maryland didn’t even make the NIT, my first reaction was shock, in that I was actually shocked. You know a program has fallen on hard times when the thing that makes you notice them is how far they’ve fallen. And this program has indeed fallen.
I remember the days when Maryland basketball was appointment television. Everything stopped at 9 p.m., or when the Terps made an appearance on ACC Sunday Night Hoops. There were great matchups, and great rivalries. Those days feel like a million years ago. All we have left now are old memories of the days when the students actually cared enough to fill the Comcast Center. Even the games against Duke don’t have that same “buzz” anymore. The three biggest wins the Terps had this year were over Clemson, Penn State and Florida State. It’s beginning to sound crazy to even remember that this team at one point was among national powers.
Sure, I could fill this space with the usual bromides about how Maryland lost homegrown talent like Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant (among others) to different programs, and all that stuff is true. And I know the ACC has shifted focus in the last few years to becoming more of a football powerhouse (which doesn’t seem to be working very well). But this...I never thought I would see the day when Maryland would be a bubble team for the NIT; and not even make THAT tournament. It used to be that a disappointing season was being a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament.
As much as I hate the concept of calling for coaches to be fired (see all those who demanded Bruce Boudreau be fired earlier this year), in Maryland’s case, you have a program that’s clearly underachieving, and has for some time. Following the title run in 2002, they had the Drew Nicholas miracle shot against UNC-Wilmington, a fluky conference tournament run (from a team that probably wouldn’t have made the tournament) and two years of NIT flameouts. They haven’t been past the Sweet Sixteen since 2003. That’s eight years of NCAA second rounds and NITs (and nothing this year), which is something that is far below what should be expected for a program of Maryland’s caliber.
I love Gary. I love what he’s done for this program. He came here when he didn’t have to and resurrected it from the dead. He won us a National Championship in a sport that matters. He’s a Hall of Famer and has won almost 700 games in his career. But there’s a point when “what you did for me yesterday” has to be replaced by “what have you done for me lately,” and in Gary’s case, the answer is “not much.” Six hundred wins and a national title does not excuse you from under-performing over a long period of time.
I miss the days when Terps basketball mattered. I want them to matter again, and I feel the only way to do that is to go in another direction.