This is the weekend we’re usually focused on the Final Four.
For the most part, we’re doing our postmortems on the area schools, while trying to figure out who has what it takes to win it all. We’re also wondering why March Madness ends in April, just like we’re curious as to why MLB begins its regular season in March.
One journey ends while another begins. There used to be a bit of a gap between the two seasons, a time to catch one’s breath. Let’s just say we have more than enough air this April.
I’ve covered a pair of Final Fours in the last 10 years, both involving the Maryland women’s team. The first was in Nashville, and the hotel was just down the street from the arena. The second was in Tampa, and the hotel was a $35 cab ride from the arena (expensed, of course). Those were both short trips, as I flew down on Sunday morning, covered a semifinal loss and flew back to D.C. the next day.
One thought that this year’s team, having won 17 straight en route to their fourth Big Ten Tournament title in six years, would be a prime candidate to get back.
Covering basketball in and around the Capital Beltway for the last decade has been a busy one: We’ve seen Maryland men’s coach Gary Williams retire; Georgetown’s John Thompson III get fired; George Washington win the NIT, only to end coach Mike Lonergan’s tenure before the following season; George Mason and American experience NCAA seasons and 20-loss campaigns; and Howard boast the nation’s leading scorer, but fail to post a winning record.
We’ve seen Virginia and Virginia Tech rebuild; VCU and George Mason switch leagues; and UMBC shock the world.
And, last year, we saw the Cavaliers come back in each round to survive and advance their way to the school’s first National Championship.
While the Final Four remains the cherry on top of the sundae that is the NCAA Tournament (which remains the dessert for the season), we remember how good the meal is, was and will be again.
In 2019-2020, the first few courses were great:
From watching Maryland’s Jalen Smith mature and emerge, to wondering what-if as injuries sidelined Georgetown’s Mac McClung and Omer Yurtseven. To see Sa’eed Nelson become American University’s all-time leading scorer, and George Washington grow under first-year coach Jamion Christian.
Seeing George Mason start strong minus the injured Justin Kier and Ian Boyd, only to see why the Patriots would miss them in Atlantic 10 play. Watching Howard double its win total in March. Seeing Hofstra punch its first ticket to the NCAA Tournament in 19 years by taking the CAA Tournament in D.C.
But, here’s to a full meal next season, dessert included. And here’s to getting back to the Final Four.