The first round is over and done with, and now we're on to the Elite Eight. The first round included nary an upset, though with such great disparity between most of the seeds, I suppose that was to be expected. Perhaps a lower seed can advance through to the Final Four, but if it happens, I'm guessing it won't happen here.
The #1 Seed: #3, Juan Dixon, G, 1998-2002
As always, I'm pretty sure words don't do Juan justice. As Dave said in the first go-around, the video board used to call him "Juaaaaanderful," and I suppose that's as apt a description as anything else.
I often think, though, that Juan's status as the driving force behind Maryland's only national championship makes some people forget just how good he was. Remember: Juan is still Maryland's all-time leading scorer, with over a hundred points to spare. He was a three-year starter, averaging more than 18 ppg each season. He made more 3-pointers than anyone else in Maryland history (interestingly enough, Mike Jones is #2, so I'm not sure that's too brag-worthy). And, of course, he was First Team All-ACC three times, First Team All-American once, and won ACC Player of the year in his senior season.
Still, though, Juan's crowning achievement is the Natty, without a doubt, and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors he received to go along with it. It's tough to go against that.
Dixon's legacy was enhanced, too, by the status as the quintessential Gary Williams player: unheralded, undersized, scrappy, tough. The old story goes that Gary offered him a scholarship after he watched Juan diving for a ball at an AAU game in Atlanta - when his team was down by 20 points in the fourth quarter. Most viewed Dixon as being too small play in the ACC. Gary disagreed. We saw which was right.
The #8 Seed: #35, Lonny Baxter, C, 1998-2002
Well, this is interesting indeed. Juan against Lonny. Championship-winner vs. championship-winner. Juan is the crown jewel of that National Championship run, but Lonny is a very close second, and I'm sure it'll be tough to choose for sentimental reasons, if nothing else.
But Lonny had a fantastic career in his own right. Like Juan, he became a starter in his sophomore year, and instantly made a significant impact. He averaged over 15 ppg each of his three seasons in the starting five, and twice garnered First Team All-ACC honors. He was a quieter sort than Juan, more of a secondary option in the low block, but he still had his big games when they were needed: he dropped 31 points as a sophomore against N.C. State at home, leading the Terrapins to a come-from-behind victory. As a junior, he destroyed Georgetown's frontcourt, scoring 26 and grabbing 14 boards on the way to Gary Williams' first Elite Eight.
Like Juan, though, Lonny is most fondly remembered for his role in the National Championship team. He controlled UConn's Emeka Okafor in the Elite Eight, scoring 29 points over the future NPOY. And against an Indiana team that lacked an elite big man, LB dominated the inside, getting a double-double in the biggest game of his life.
Lonny's role as the primary big man in both of the Final Four teams can't be overlooked, but much like Juan, it shouldn't overshadow his entire career. Lonny is 7th in all-time career points for Maryland, and 2nd in rebounds. His post-Terrapin career wasn't exactly glamorous, but while he was in College Park, he was undoubtedly a star. Again: there is very little Lonny didn't do in his time at Maryland.