The Maryland women's basketball team reacts to being seeded No. 3 and put in the same bracket as UConn and Duke for the NCAA tournament. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun video)
Four seconds on the clock and time for the customary desperation shot. What happened next looked like a soccer throw-in, two hands behind the head and feet on the ground. It flew high and far, an impossibly towering arc from a 5-foot 7-inch freshman point guard launched three-quarters of the Xfinity Center court away from the basket. Three-two-one and "swoosh" through the back of the net. A shot so impossibly impossible it made half-court buzzer-beaters look like your average playground layup.
Destiny Slocum's three-pointer didn't win the game for the University of Maryland women's basketball team (technically, it merely increased the Terrapins' halftime lead to 38-24), but it clearly took the remaining fight out of West Virginia University. After completing their crushing 83-58 victory in College Park, the Terps are headed back to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women's basketball tournament, and they appear to have something to prove.
We have lamented on this page before that men's college basketball gets a disproportionate share of the public's attention, particularly given the quality of the women's play. Destiny Slocum's 70-footer would have been just as ESPN SportsCenter worthy if it had been tossed by Melo Trimble, the junior men's guard whose own Terrapin team was "one-and-done" in NCAA March Madness with a 76-65 loss to Xavier last Thursday. The difference is that if Melo had done it, Maryland sports fans would have burned out their social media accounts relishing the moment and sharing the video.
One can argue all day the chicken-or-the-egg question about media coverage of the women's game. The Terrapin women don't get the broadcast schedule or news coverage of the men, but it also comes down to ticket sales and viewership. The Sunday home tournament game drew 6,129 fans, including some who came to cheer for the Mountaineers. Incredibly, attendance was only about 400 above the season average, and considering the Terps play in an arena with a capacity of nearly 18,000, that's pretty modest. Yet it's also par for the course in women's sports.
Now would be a great time for Marylanders to jump on the Terps' playoff bandwagon. In her 15 seasons at Maryland, Coach Brenda Frese has turned the women's program into one of the most successful in the nation, capturing multiple conference titles (including this year's Big Ten) as well as a national championship in 2006. But this year the team hasn't gotten the respect its due despite its 32-2 record, and the NCAA did Coach Frese no favors by demoting her team to a third seed — and worse, sticking it in the same region as the Godzilla of college athletics (men's or women's), the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.
Remember the last time the UConn Huskies lost a game? We couldn't either, so we looked it up: Nov. 17, 2014 to Stanford University in Palo Alto in overtime. Since then, they've rattled off 108 straight victories, far better than the 88 games the UCLA men's program racked up under legendary Coach John Wooden. Should Maryland win its next game in the NCAA tournament, they are likely to face UConn in Bridgeport, Conn., an impossible challenge, to earn a spot in the Final Four.
Wait, did we just use that word, impossible, again? The Terps played the Huskies last December in College Park, losing 87-81. For UConn, a team that has won the majority of its games by 40 points or more, that's about as close as they come. Over their 108-game streak, the Huskies have won 105 games by a double-digit margin. Dare we say it? That puts the Terrapins in range of Destiny and perhaps in control of their destiny, too. Impossible things have been known to happen around this team.
Are the women likely to make the Final Four? We can't say that given UConn's achievements. But they surely deserve some respect — and attention. Seniors Brionna Jones of Havre de Grace, a powerful inside player, and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, one of the most accurate shooting guards in the nation, will be remembered as all-time Terp greats no matter what happens next. Crazier things have happened in March, and no team capable of making shots from anywhere on the court (including 70 feet away from the basket) ought to be taken lightly.