Champ to chump can be short trip

Maryland women aren't first to find that defending a crown isn't easy

Commentary

The Kickoff

March 23, 2007|By CHILDA WALKER | CHILDA WALKER,SUN REPORTER

The Maryland women's basketball team entered this season with high hopes, a defending national champion that returned every starter and added a star transfer from Tennessee. But the Terps went 0-4 against rivals North Carolina and Duke and exited the NCAA tournament with an ignominious second-round defeat in which they couldn't hold on to the ball against Mississippi's press. This put us in mind of some other teams and athletes who seemed primed to defend their titles but never came close:

Sonny Liston

Coming off his second demolition of former champ Floyd Patterson, Liston was regarded as the scariest heavyweight in boxing history. Some literally feared for the life of his next challenger, a mercurial upstart named Cassius Clay. Instead, the fighter who became Muhammad Ali toyed with Liston for six rounds and took his title.

1967 Orioles

The Birds followed up the franchise's first World Series win with a 76-85 record and in a tie for sixth place. But their nucleus rebounded to play in three straight World Series from 1969 to 1971.

1979 Yankees

The Bronx Bombers had been to three straight World Series and won two straight but fell to fourth in the American League East despite having Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry.

1988 Washington Redskins

After winning the Super Bowl in January, the Redskins, with most of their stars back, went 7-9 and missed the NFL playoffs.

1994 North Carolina men's basketball

The Tar Heels returned four starters from a championship team and added star recruits Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace. But ninth seed Boston College sent them packing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

1999 Tennessee women's basketball

The Volunteers were coming off three straight national titles and a 39-0 season and returned their top three scorers, led by Chamique Holdsclaw. But they lost to Duke in the regional finals.

2003 Anaheim Angels

They won 99 games and the World Series in 2002 but went 77-85 the next season despite a nearly identical roster.

2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After dominating the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl, the Bucs returned their great defense but lost a bevy of close games to go 7-9 and miss the playoffs.

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