It seems like forever ago. It seems like so long ago that Greivis Vasquez hit a layup to give Maryland the lead and cap a 12-2 run that took about 90 seconds. It seems like so long ago that Korie Lucious, a no-name backup that shoots 30% from deep, ruined what was nearly the greatest minute and a half in Maryland basketball history.
Yet it seems like just yesterday that Greivis Vasquez hit a similar runner against Duke to claim a win over the Blue Devils in his final game in the Comcast Center. It seems like just yesterday that he hushed the crowd against California. It seems like just yesterday that he recorded Maryland's third triple-double ever to beat UNC and possibly save Gary Williams' job.
I held off giving any thoughts on the game directly after it, because nothing good could've come from it. But about 22 hours since Lucious hit that terrible, awful shot, I feel ready to discuss it.
Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Landon Milbourne meant a lot to this program. Collectively, they played the role of Walt Williams in the early '90s. They kept Maryland basketball on the map. If they don't turn out as well as they did, where is Maryland basketball right now? It took a heck of an effort to get to the tournament last year and do as well as they did this year, but they did it. It's even more remarkable that this wasn't guaranteed - none of these guys were studs coming out of high school. All had their fatal flaws. And they overcame them.
They played the game the right way. They are more like the National Championship team than any other team Maryland has had since or before, at least in terms of work ethic. They played like Gary wanted them to, and that's not always easy.
Not since Juan Dixon has Maryland had a player as likable as Greivis Vasquez. Before then, maybe not since Len Bias. Walt Williams might be more important for what he did for the program, but bidding Greivis good-bye has been an awfully hard process. His passion and mentality are all that is great about college basketball. Having fun and entertaining the fans, defending his honor and representing his team, but never at the cost of winning.
The rest of the trio had their place, too. Eric Hayes will go down as one of the best unsung heroes for Maryland in a long time. He had a great four years, and it may not've been what some expected, but he was a part of an amazing class. The same goes for Landon Milbourne - he is the epitome of a four-year player: couldn't play a lick as a freshman, but worked hard and became a great player by his final year.
I've said it before, but that's why this loss hurts - not so much because Lucious ended Maryland's season as it is that he ended their careers. If the trio were juniors right now, we'd all be down, but a part of us would have a quiet confidence - "They'll be back," we'd say to each other. "They'll make up for it next year."
But there is no next year, not for these three. Never again will we be able to watch a gold-clad Greivis Vasquez shimmy across the floor, and that's a sight that I need to see at least once a year to be a whole person.
It had to end somehow, though. Would I rather it have ended with a miracle Final Four run that the basketball gods set up? A win over Northern Iowa followed by an upset of Ohio State in an epic Evan Turner-Greivis Vasquez battle for the ages? Of course. But any way these guys went out, it would be tough to wish them good-bye.
There is one thing, though, I feel needs to be said: it is better that this happened instead of what it looked like was going to happen. Greivis Vasquez is nothing if not a showman, and he certainly put on a show for Maryland fans. It was one last performance, a sacrifice of body and will to engineer the ultimate comeback.
Had Maryland gone down without a fight, maybe it would be easier on the heart, maybe we could've told ourselves that "Michigan State was the better team today." But that's not Greivis Vasquez, and that's not Gary Williams. They don't play like that. They fight to the death. They saw an opening, and pulled as hard as they could until the floodgates poured open. It just happened a little too late. I'm happier that it ended this way - Greivis Vasquez and this class deserve a bang, not a whimper.
Never before has it been harder to see a player leave the program, I'll grant you that. With Juan Dixon, and Steve Blake a year later, we knew they had closure. They won a national championship, they reached the pinnacle. That never happened with Greivis. It was supposed to happen here, but that just wasn't the plan.
We must not dwell. This is to be the last post on the topic (of the shot, not Greivis' career). As wonderful as Greivis and his compatriots were, as terrible as it was for them to go out this way, Maryland basketball does not die with him, just as it will not die with Gary Williams.
We now turn our eyes to Jordan Williams, and wait for him to lead Maryland to greatness, for his banner to be raised.
We wait to welcome Pe'Shon Howard and Mychal Parker, eager for them to make their own legacies.
We accept that Greivis is gone, that Eric and Landon are elsewhere, and we will watch their professional careers as we do any other Terp.
This class meant a lot to Maryland basketball, and they deserved better. But they aren't Maryland basketball, and it will recover. Jordan Williams may lead them to it. Or maybe Justin Anderson, or Quinn Cook. But at some point, they will find redemption.
Life goes on. Fear the Turtle.