Maryland's run through the NCAA Tournament ended over the weekend after the Tigers completely dominated the Terps 89-70 in the NCAA Second Round in the Kansas City regional. Greivis Vasquez's comments on Memphis's conference came back to haunt him, as the Tigers took Maryland down easily. The 10-seed Maryland upset 7-seed California in the first round, but their run is over.
Looking back on this team, it is quite the story on how well these men played. Everything did not seem to look right for Maryland. They had no dominant front court, with their tallest starter being a 6'7'' player that was seemingly out-of-shape. Their leader was the target of everyone, including some of the home fans. The head coach was under attack from some fans and the media. The athletic director and coaching staff continued to fight. The Terps were picked to finish 11th in the conference. Losses to Morgan State and Virginia seemed to nullify wins against North Carolina and Michigan State. But through everything, this team made it to the NCAA Tournament and won a game, which is much farther than almost anyone had them going.
Dave Neal, a player widely considered a joke coming into the season, became an important leader on the court plus a credible player. His clutch three-point shooting and heart were invaluable. His basketball career might be over, but he stepped up when needed in his senior year.
Greivis Vasquez remained the leader of the team despite constant attacks from arrogant Maryland fans and the media. Though he was not perfect by any means, his play was key to Maryland's success. Without him, it is hard to imagine Maryland being competitive.
And Gary Williams is probably the best story of them all. Every year a number of people, coined Gary-haters, attack him for not being a good coach, apparently believing that 13 NCAA Tournaments out of 16 years is not enough and that we should be in the Sweet 16 every year. Even after winning a game in the Tournament and losing to a very high seeded team, they still call for his head. The athletic department and the media was on his back constantly. Through all of it, he kept his team motivated and backed up his players, and they in turn backed him up and turned the 08-09 year into a very successful one. Despite the problems the team had, the lack of size and consistent shooting, this team was turned into a very good one that could compete with the best. Not to mention winning the first round for the eighth straight opportunity.
I want to give congratulations to everyone in the Maryland basketball program for a great season. We will hopefully see you all next year.
(Photo credit: Baltimore Sun)