It’s easy to support the argument that Maryland’s 2002 National Championship basketball team was the best Terps team of all time, considering it’s the only UMD team ever to accomplish that feat.
But when all circumstances are considered, was it really the best ever?
Take a look at the 1973-1974 squad, and try to compare the two under the circumstances that existed.
That team finished 23-5, and lost it’s opener to top-ranked UCLA on the road by a point, then won nine straight before dropping a road game to #4 NC State by 6. They then lost two straight: to 4th-ranked UNC by 9 on the road, and #2 NC State at home. In the ACC Tournament, the Terps made the finals, but lost to eventual National Champion NC State, 103-100, in what some have called one of the best college basketball game ever played.
In 1974, the NCAA Tournament field was limited to 16 teams, and there were no at-large bids. If a team didn’t win its conference tournament, it was out of luck.
The 2002 team finished 30-4, (15-1 in the ACC), and started the season ranked #2 in the country. Their losses were to unranked Arizona by 4 in the season opener, by 16 to Oklahoma (ranked 21st), top-ranked Duke by 21, and unranked NC State by 4 in the ACC Tournament semifinals. The Arizona loss was on a neutral court, but the other three were on the road.
Had the same rules applied in 2002 as were in place in 1974, the UMD National Championship team would not have even made it into the dance.
As for the individual players, Chris Wilcox (#8 overall), and Juan Dixon (#17) were drafted by the NBA in 2002 in the first round. Lonnie Baxter (#43) went in the second round that year. Steve Blake was drafted the following year in the second round (38th overall). None of the other players on that team were drafted.
One the 1974 squad, Tom McMillen and Len Elmore were drafted in the 1st round (9th and 13 overall). The following year, Tom Roy (3rd round, 43rd overall) and Owen Brown (9th round, 142nd) were drafted, and John Lucas was the #1 overall selection in 1976.
An argument could be made for either of those teams to be considered the best Maryland team ever. Which do you think was the best?