There’s really no way to avoid history when you attend the College of William & Mary. It’s the second-oldest school in the nation (behind Harvard) and the picturesque buildings and statues are sure to jog your memory of that fact if you had temporary amnesia. The official school bookstore is a couple of blocks from campus and looks like any other you might encounter in your travels except that it also is in the middle of Colonial Williamsburg, a replica of the 17th- and 18th-century Virginia capital and a “living history museum.” A short jog from campus would bring you to Yorktown, where British general Charles Cornwallis committed the first egregiously unsportsmanlike act on American soil, failing to shake George Washington’s hand after being defeated to end the Revolutionary War in 1781 (instead, he sent his second in command to surrender). A few miles in the other direction is Jamestown, the first permanent British settlement in North America.
Basketball history in Williamsburg, though? Well that’s defined by what you won’t find on campus anywhere — an NCAA Tournament banner. If you know your basketball history (or have been paying attention when it has been mentioned), you know that William & Mary is among the Cursed Five (along with Army, St. Francis — Brooklyn, The Citadel, and Northwestern), the quintet of schools that have never appeared in an NCAA Tournament since it began in 1939. It’s a particularly sore subject in Williamsburg because the Tribe have been very close in the last two seasons, losing a pair of heartbreakers in the CAA title game. Two seasons ago, William & Mary held a six-point lead with 90 seconds left against Delaware and, even after relinquishing it, Tribe star Marcus Thornton’s last-second shot to win appeared headed for its intended target, only to have history, physics, and karma combine to keep it out. Last March, the regular season CAA champion Tribe was beaten by Northeastern, and at least got a small consolation prize of an NIT bid. However, none of that removes W&M from the ignominious list, even if it marked the first time in seven decades that William & Mary tallied back-to-back 20-win seasons.