Maryland Terrapin Classic: Gary Williams Leads Team Back to Big Dance

Brian KaufmanCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2009

This is the second-best coaching job Gary Williams has ever done.

Obviously, when a coach wins a national championship, as Williams did with Maryland in 2002, it will go down in history as likely his best campaign. But what this future Hall of Fame coach did with a passionate point guard and a center who stands at 6'7" tall is noteworthy.

He was scrutinized by the athletic department at his own school, questioned by the media about the cleanliness of his program (HA!) and still managed to get his team a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament.

You can hear it in the postgame interviews with Greivis Vasquez, the flashy Venezuelan point guard who leads Maryland with 17.2 PPG. Constantly claiming to be so happy to be at Maryland so he can play for Williams, he went so far as to call his coach his "step-dad" in a recent interview. If that isn't a team following its coach, then I don't know what is.

Leonard Hamilton did a tremendous job with the Florida State Seminoles this season and deserved his 2009 ACC Coach of the Year award. But if Maryland had won that last game at Virginia and managed to post an 8-8 record in the ACC, I think Williams would have gotten some recognition.

Win or lose against Cal on Thursday afternoon, the Maryland Terrapins have been on a heck of a ride this season. The Golden Bears shoot the three as well as anyone, led by Jerome Randle and his 18 PPG. Regardless of how hot or cold the opposition comes out, you can bet Gary's players will be flying at the three-point shooters like you've never seen.

A week ago, Maryland was going to get blown out by N.C. State in the first round of the ACC tournament and hope for an NIT game at the Comcast Center. Why not, they knew their season was on the line against Virginia and they couldn't get a win against the toilet team of the ACC?

Okay, Maryland got past the Wolfpack. Well, the second-seeded Wake Forest Demon Deacons came into College Park a week ago and beat the Terps, albeit in a close game. But this is a top 10 team in the country; they won't be able to stick with them again.

Maryland 75, Wake Forest 64

The only double-digit game in the quarterfinal round was the No. 7 seed upsetting the No. 2 seed. Now people weren't thinking about Jeff Teague dunking on Dave Neal. They were thinking about Neal's senior leadership qualities. They were thinking about how Neal played 70 percent of the minutes he played in a Terrapin uniform in his senior season alone. They were thinking about how the Terps were going dancing.

The Terps are not going to win the national title this season. They may not even get past California in the first round, and if they do, a date with Memphis looks none too pleasing. But on the roller coaster ride that has been the Maryland Terrapins' season, the game today at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., will provide a feeling of accomplishment for Williams and his players.

And there may not be a group of guys in college basketball that deserves it more.