So it ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL comes down to this.
Even in this part of the regular season, when “bubble” and “bracketology” pop up in every conversation, a real honest-to-God must-win game is rare. There’s usually an “if” or a “but” somewhere. But tonight, 7 p.m. against Wake, is different. The Terps’ situation could not be any clearer. Win and they’re in. Lose and they’re out.
It is slightly akin to looking through a window at a large Thanksgiving-style meal, replete with three kinds of dinner rolls and cranberry sauce, and not that kind with the can ribbing still visible along the sides either. I’m talking, like, fresh from the bog. Wouldn’t that hit the spot right about now? You’re damn right it would. And so would this victory tonight. To further my incredible food analogy, the Terps are “starving” for a “seat at the table” come March Madness time. You might even say they are at a “fork” in the road. Or perhaps that they are “hungry” for success. Oh, man. That was great.
So it’s a big game and everyone knows it. Lots of work to do with the program either way, and no one should forget or deny that, but for this season, this one little win would sponge out a lot of missteps. It would be like one of those extreme makeover shows where they give out free plastic surgery. In short order, the clubfooted Wal-Mart greeter with halitosis becomes Halle Berry.
I don’t want to put too fine of a point on it, but in a sense it really is like they’re playing for their lives. If they lose, they’re a band of undertalented undersized undercoached underacheiving undereverything choke artists. If they win, they’re The Little Team That Could. How would your life be affected if the public permanently relegated your college career to one of those two camps? It’s crazy how much the perception of this team will hinge on this one game.
Take for example, oh, I don’t know, Big Dave Neal. If they lose tonight, in the eyes of many he’ll just be an unathletic bum. Thanks for your service, happy graduation. If they win, he’ll be the team rock who overcame adversity to discover true leadership, or whatever.
And then, of course, there is Vasquez. He had a good night last night (17-10-4). Tonight he’ll need to take it up a notch. And he’ll have to do it amid yet another patented Greivis Vasquez Self-Inflicted Media Distraction. For some reason, he chose the day before the N.C. State game to announce that he would be testing the NBA draft waters, and the reaction was apparently strong enough to elicit a clarification about his focus. Hey, you know what would have been a better way to clarify that? Don’t say it in the first place. But no matter. If they win tonight, his antics are instantly forgiven.
So that’s it in a nutshell. I’m getting my hopes up a little bit, just like I feared I would, although I’m still doubtful they can pull it off. Wake’s frontcourt, plus the Terps’ consistent inability to perform under pressure, is not a very good combination, as Tim McCarver might say. And yet…they got close last time. The Thanksgiving-style meal is still sitting there, just as fragrant and succulent-looking as it can be. All the Terps have to do is muster the fortitude to go in there and get it. But there’s a huge difference between “can” and “will.” We shall see. Go Terps!