So this is what it feels like. This is what it feels like to watch a meaningful basketball game in early March. This is what it feels like to stand in a crowded arena jumping up and down as your team makes a furious comeback to secure a win at the last second. This is what it feels like to see the crowd spill from the stands onto the court to celebrate the school’s first NCAA tournament birth since 2002.
I am a huge college basketball fan, and have been for most of my life. I became enamored of the Duke Blue Devils when I was a kid and have cheered for them through the good times and the bad (though the times have been mostly good). Today, however, was unlike anything I have experienced in my 29 years of college fandom. I was lucky enough to see my alma mater, Boston University, secure a bid to the NCAA tournament earlier today. To be in the arena when your alma mater is playing for an NCAA tournament bid is something special. The atmosphere was electric (even in a less than full Agganis Arena), the tension was high. While I always feel anxious when Duke is playing in a big game, my anxiety was at a new level cheering for the Terriers. Duke makes the tournament almost every year, but to make the tournament is something special for Boston University. The Terriers have made the tournament just 7 times in their history!
The game was not particularly well played. Neither team shot well (31.5% for Stony Brook, 31.3% for BU). There were a total of 41 fouls (24 for Stony Brook, 17 for BU) and the final score was 56-54. Despite its obvious flaws, that game was exciting. BU stormed back from 15 point deficit (41-26) with 16:48 left in the 2nd half to tie the game at 54 with 1:03 left, and take the lead with just 2.3 seconds left. The story of the game wasn’t that BU stormed back, it was that John Holland took the team on his back and willed the Terriers into the NCAA tournament. After being largely anonymous in the first half, the America East player of the year exploded for 23 points in the 2nd half. As a friend put it, “John Holland decided the Terriers were going to the NCAAs. And it was so.” Holland, in the 2nd half, showed why he was the conference player of the year, and proved that he was the best player on the floor. After the Terriers went down by 15 it was like he flipped a switch and kicked his game into a higher gear. Holland saved his best for his last game on Commonwealth Avenue and ensured that he would play at least one more game in his superlative career.
I tweeted after the game, that this was the beginning of something big, and I believe that. Patrick Chambers has injected a new energy into the program, and has taken the Terriers into the postseason in each of his first two seasons. Last season, the Terriers played in the College Basketball Invitational, making the semifinals and defeating Oregon State along the way. This year, the Terriers get to go to the big dance. With a young team (Holland is the only senior), and several new recruits coming, Boston University could be on its way to a run of postseason births.
If you’re interested, check out some pictures taken at the game in my Flikr stream.