Greensboro, N.C.—In a rare occurrence, Greivis Vasquez missed a clutch shot in the final moments of a game as No. 19 Maryland was upset by a lower-seeded, but arguably more talented, Georgia Tech team in the second round of the ACC tournament.
Vasquez has been automatic in similar situations this season.
Against Virginia, he hit multiple threes in succession during the closing minutes to hold off the Cavaliers’ upset attempt.
In their upset of No. 4 Duke last week, Vasquez connected on a seemingly impossible runner to give the Terrapins the distance they needed to put the Blue Devils away for good.
Heck, he even made a running half-court buzzer beater that would have beaten Georgia Tech a few weeks ago if Gary Williams hadn’t called a timeout. The Terps just hit another buzzer beater out of the timeout instead.
The late-game heroics didn’t show up for Maryland this time, giving the Yellow Jackets a win that will almost certainly secure their place in the NCAA tournament.
As for Maryland, this loss doesn’t affect their NCAA tournament chances—they locked that up a while ago, and their seven straight wins going into the ACC tournament probably guarantees them a relatively high seed.
What the loss will do is cast doubt on the Terrapins' chances to do much in the tournament.
After all, Maryland is one of the most overlooked teams in the nation on an annual basis.
The Terrapins were picked to finish fifth in the ACC this season—they tied Duke for the regular season ACC championship.
They didn’t even show up in the Top 25 rankings until just a few weeks ago, despite having a solid record and sitting atop the ACC with Duke.
But ask a Maryland player if that bothers them, even after a loss, and they will shrug it off.
“We know people are going to doubt us,” said Maryland guard Sean Mosley after the loss to Georgia Tech. “When you have people doubting you, you work harder. You work harder and harder every day because no one is respecting us.”
Vasquez also finds inspiration from the doubt.
“I want to prove people wrong. That motivates me,” he said in the locker room Friday night.
It’s easy to understand why the Terrapins are so often overlooked.
In a conference like the ACC, it seems like just about every team has at least one McDonald’s All-American on its roster. Duke and UNC have about 10 each.
At first glance, they don’t have anyone intimidating at all. Even Vasquez, the ACC Player of the Year, is one of those players people write off as being over-hyped.
Compare what you’ve heard about Vasquez this year to what you heard about Ty Lawson last year, or even Jon Scheyer this year, and it will seem like he just came out of nowhere to win the award.
Then go look at his stats and ask yourself how he wasn’t talked about as a preseason All-American candidate.
No respect indeed (did Rodney Dangerfield go to Maryland?).
Year in and year out, Maryland outplays the low expectations. They are the only ACC team not named Duke or North Carolina to win both an ACC Tournament and a national title in the last decade.
Their upcoming NCAA appearance will be their 10th in 12 years, and they have made it to at least the second round in all of those appearances.
So, if you’re not catching on (no offense to the intelligence of the reader intended), sleeping on Maryland in the NCAA tournament this year is probably a bad move.
Even if everything inside you is screaming that they are too slow, too small, or too non-athletic to make any noise in the big dance, don’t listen.
If you think their loss to Georgia Tech is an indication that they are slipping, it isn’t. Tech isn’t a bad team and Maryland almost came back from a near 20-point deficit.
You see, Maryland thrives on low expectations, and they mess up a lot of brackets every year as a result.
When it comes to Maryland, don’t become another statistic.
They will win at least one game in the NCAA tournament, and a Sweet 16 appearance wouldn’t be a long shot.
You don’t have to fear the turtle, you just have to respect it.