Growing up in the late 1990s and the early 200s, I watched Maryland dominate the March Madness tournament.
It wasn’t until Vince Vaughn’s starring role in “Wedding Crashers” that I learned the state wasn’t a basketball powerhouse. In fact, the Old Line State is apparently known for “crab cakes and football.”
However, this March Madness is a special one for Marylanders. It’s the first time sports bettors can wager on it at any of the five sportsbooks located in Maryland casinos.
And unlike in Virginia, Marylanders can bet on any of the nine Maryland-based Division 1 schools that could make the tournament.
In honor of 2022 being the first year Marylanders can bet on March Madness games, here’s a look at the top five tournament moments involving Maryland schools.
#5 – Maryland-on-Maryland Action During 2008 March Madness
Outside of the University of Maryland, the state’s Division I athletic programs are all considered mid-major. Many of which have just a couple of decades worth of experience at the Division 1 level.
As a result, these programs have less of a March Madness resume than the state’s largest university in College Park. Furthermore, it means that alumni from the smaller schools have fewer chances to root for their teams in the tournament.
I wanted to make sure those moments were represented on the list which is why I put the 2008 opening-round matchup between Mt. St. Mary’s and Coppin State on the list.
Sure, it was the opening round matchup seven years after the NCAA expanded the field to 65 teams. And some fans would call it a “play-in game” to the field of 64.
But it gave fans of the two small Maryland schools something to cheer for. One of those fanbases would walk away saying they watched their team win a game in March Madness. That is noteworthy in and of itself.
Both teams endured relative mediocrity during the regular season but went on to win their conference tournament.
Mt. St. Mary’s handled Sacred Heart in the NEC Championship game and Coppin State dispatched of top-seeded Morgan State in the MEAC title game.
Following their upset wins, the NCAA selection committee put them up against one another in the opening round.
It was the first time Coppin State was in the tournament since 1997 when they upset No. 2 South Carolina in the first round. Mt. St. Mary’s was dancing for the first time since 1999 when they lost to top-ranked Michigan State.
Mt. St. Mary’s went on to win the game 69-60 and secured the program’s first NCAA tournament victory.
#4 – Navy Makes The 1986 Elite Eight
I thought it was important to highlight the only real deep run in the NCAA tournament by a Maryland school that doesn’t have a turtle as the mascot.
During the mid-1980s, the United States Naval Academy ended up with a future NBA Hall of Famer on their roster. Subsequently, their basketball program thrived with future San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson leading the way.
In 1986, the 7-footer led the Midshipmen to a 30-5 record and a No. 7 seed in the East region of March Madness. Navy easily dispatched Tulsa in the first round and beat second-seeded Syracuse by 12 in the second round.
They squeaked by Cleveland State in the Sweet Sixteen and were just one win away from the program’s first Final Four appearance. Unfortunately, the team from Annapolis ran into top-seeded Duke and lost by 21.
The program hasn’t had this type of success since. However, on the bright side, they also haven’t had the short shorts return either.
#3 – University of Maryland Makes Its First Final Four
Like I mentioned earlier, I grew up when the Terrapins were a perennial basketball powerhouse.
When you’re a teenager, you don’t think about history. You assume that teams that are good have always been good and the bad teams have always been bad. After all, that’s all you can remember happening anyway.
Therefore, when I was digging through the Maryland basketball history books, I was shocked to see that the University of Maryland basketball program only made its first Final Four in 2001.
The 2001 squad was led by a strong backcourt duo of Juan Dixon and Steve Blake. They were coached by the legendary Gary Williams.
The Terrapins finished the regular season 25-11. The mark was good enough for third in a very tough Atlantic Coast Conference and a No. 11 national ranking.
They hit very few road bumps along the way to the Final Four. Along the way, they defeated George Mason, Georgia State, Georgetown and Stanford en route to the national semifinal game. Most of those victories were by double digits.
But they ran into the buzzsaw that was Duke, which won the ACC tournament a month earlier. Despite a double-digit lead at the start of the second half, Duke mounted a comeback and won the game 95-84.
#2 – UMBC Becomes First No. 16 Seed To Upset No. 1 Seed
The headline says it all. In 2018, the University of Maryland Baltimore County men’s basketball team put the school on the map.
They won the America East tournament as the No. 2 seed and got into the March Madness bracket as a No. 16 seed. Unfortunately for the Retrievers, they were matched up with the No. 1 overall seed University of Virginia.
It was a foregone conclusion in the eyes of most that Virginia would steamroll the squad from Baltimore.
In fact, that’s how it has always been. The top seed always beat the 16 seed. There was not a single time in March Madness history that a top-seeded team ever lost in the first round.
Not only did the Retrievers win. They won big. This wasn’t some fluke buzzer-beater. This was a 20-point drubbing with a final score of 74-54.
Unfortunately, the Cinderella story ended two days later when they lost to Kansas State 50-43.
#1 – University of Maryland Wins National Championship in 2002
If the Terrapins had a UCLA-type resume in the postseason, I probably would’ve given UMBC the top spot on this list.
But they don’t.
The program only has one NCAA National Championship and it came just a year after their first Final Four appearance. With superstar guard Juan Dixon in his senior year and backcourt partner Steve Blake in his junior year, the duo led the Terrapins to one of the most dominating March Madness performances in history.
The squad rolled through the tournament winning four of their six games by double digits. They won every game by at least eight points.
Furthermore, it’s the only time a Maryland school won the NCAA men’s basketball National Championship. I have to give it the top spot on the countdown.