The 24 Hours After Winning a College Basketball Championship

by Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck)

Matt Ellentuck is the Head of Editorial at Gaming Society, where he co-writes the Bet on Women newsletter.

When Maryland basketball inked Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver on the same day, everyone knew the women’s program was destined for something special. I mean, Coleman turned down UConn, Tennessee, Florida and Duke to join Brenda Frese’s team. This was serious.

What nobody could’ve predicted is that the two freshmen would immediately lead the Terps to their first-ever NCAA Championship in 2006 over archrival Duke after a massive 13-point comeback was equalized on a Toliver game-tying shot with five seconds to play. Coleman and Toliver each knocked in a pair of free throws for a 78-75 overtime win. (You should seriously watch this highlight reel, it’s an incredible comeback.)

It’s a day Coleman will remember forever, but one she doesn’t think she’ll ever rewatch.

“I’m just too nostalgic about certain things,” she said. “It’s one of my greatest memories, but I think watching it is going to make me sad, too. I’d love to go back to those four years because they were the best years playing basketball.”

Specifically in those four years, she’d love to go back to the day she won the title… and the day after that, and the day after that, and, well, the day after that, too. So that led me to the question: “huh, what’s it like after you win a national championship anyway?”

Full disclosure here: the writer of this piece (hi, my name is Matt Ellentuck) is a co-worker of Coleman’s at Gaming Society. This is just one of many questions I’ve asked my WNBA All-Star friend, but at least this one wasn’t laughed off like the time she asked if I wanted to go to the Maryland game and I asked if we should get the tickets on Ticketmaster.]

What I learned from Coleman is that the wait to celebrate after winning the tournament every hooper dreams of is actually kind of exhausting.

What I learned from Coleman is that the wait to celebrate after winning the tournament every hooper dreams of is actually kind of exhausting.

“It took us forever to be able to celebrate because there was media, then you cut down the nets, then the trophy presentation,” Coleman said. “There’s a trophy presentation everyone sees. Then you get the big crystal trophy, which is the one you see at Xfinity Center, and we had to go to a separate hotel for that, so that was another hour or hour and a half.” You can even see in the photo below provided by Marissa, that the clock is at 11:34pm and they are still in the arena.

Add all of that together and that meant roughly three or four hours passed before the team could, uh, have fun without cameras in their face!

Photo provided by Marissa Coleman

There was another thing I hadn’t considered, too. You know when videos of students celebrating on their campuses go super viral after a team wins? Well, the actual team is never there. In Coleman’s instance, she was 400 miles north in Boston getting calls about the fun and chaos ensuing on campus. That’s kind of a bummer!

The Terps did have their own fun at the hotel they stayed at that night — for those curious, yes, team managers prep activities for a win or a loss — but it wasn’t until the next day when Coleman realized what the trophy meant back at home.  

“I remember everyone being down to hang out with us and follow us where we went,” she said. Instantly, they were College Park celebrities, and that shift was felt two-fold.

“For us, celebrating on campus was extra special because – you know how fans are for the men’s basketball team – but this was the first time they really rallied behind a women's team.”

So no, the route to championship celebration isn’t perfect for college basketball stars, but its magnitude is felt forever. That’s why Coleman’s advice to whoever cuts down the nets is simple.

“Do it to the max.”

Read more from Marissa Coleman and Matt Ellentuck at the Gaming Society, an entertainment and gaming platform making sports betting more inclusive and easierr to understand for all fans. Subscribe to the Bet On Women newsletter here, and please tell Homefield you liked today’s newsletter so we can tell the story of partying with Busta Rhymes next.

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