Apologies for the delay in the tournament, but we're back on schedule now and things should roll smoothly from here. Today's second-round matchup pits Greivis Vasquez against one of his coaches, strangely enough. The winner of this moves on to the Final Four and faces off against the winner of the Steve Francis-Joe Smith battle that comes tomorrow.
And, always, a reminder that this is for Gary-era players only, at least this go-around. Now, let's get to it:
The #3 Seed: #21, Greivis Vasquez, G, 2006-2010
The really interesting thing to me about assessing Greivis Vasquez in this tourney is that he's the only one who hasn't really had a settling-in period. Everyone else in the bracket has been gone for a number of years, while the Maryland Terrapins have had a team without The General for, uh, one season. There's been no time for Vasquez's legacy to cement and for fans to form a consensus on where he stands in the big scheme of things.
But no matter: he's earned his #3 seed with his phenomenal stats, underrated impact on the program, delightful style of player, and, perhaps most of all, utterly lovable personality.
It's often been said that Greivis was Gary Williams on the court, mostly because of his fiery, expressive personality. (That's a misconception, actually, because I don't think Gary ever acted like that when he did play.) But GV loved his coach, for sure, and by the end of his career, GW loved his point guard. If Vasquez wasn't the Gary-on-speed, ultra-demonstrative, do-things-like-this kind of guy he was, there's no doubt in mind we don't remember him the same way.
Lest we forget the aforementioned phenomenal stats, underrated impact on the program, and delightful game, though: Vasquez is second only to Juan Dixon in career points scored in Maryland history, and if a certain pass hit a certain someone in the head, he had a chance at being tops. He's also second in career assists, trailing just Steve Blake. The only other player who's in the top five of both lists: John Lucas, who I hear was pretty good.
And don't forget, either, that Vasquez is the only player in ACC history to score 2,000 points, dish 750 assists, and grab 600 rebounds. Out of all the great players in ACC history who could seemingly do everything - Johnny Dawkins, Chris Paul, Phil Ford, Grant Hill, Michael Jordan - not a single one did that. (It isn't evidence of Vasquez's superiority over those many fantastic players, because he isn't "better" than them, but it is evidence of his quality.)
His style of play - up-and-down, a mile a minute, crazy passes, crazy shots - was begging for criticism (and often received it), it seemed, until mid-way through his junior year, at which point it became clear that everything had come together for GV. By his senior year, he was undeniably great, and his senior season was predictably fantastic. But what's probably most striking about Greivis was how comfortable he was in the big moment. He lived for the spotlight, and when the occasion arose - the still-unbelievable UNC game, the Illinois steal, Duke at home, and so many others - he stepped up.
I could write an essay on Vasquez, much like I could with Juan. But I think you get my drift.
The #6 Seed: #22, Keith Booth, F, 1993-1997
Keith Booth is one of the players probably more remembered for what he meant for the program than what he actually did as a player. Booth, of course, broke the Baltimore-UMD barrier, the first player to suit up for Gary Williams and the Terps since they oh-so-disdainfully dealt with Charm City icon Bob Wade. Baltimore HS coaches essentially had a boycott on Maryland; Booth, a star at Dunbar HS, picked the Terrapins anyway, smoothing over a notoriously rocky relationship in the process. He paved the way for later B-More stars like Rodney Elliot, Sean Mosley, and, yes, Juan Dixon to make their way to College Park. He was of such great import that he later came back as an assistant to help out the cause of getting Baltimore players to stay at home (not particularly fruitfully, I might add).
But Booth enjoyed a fantastic Maryland career in his own right, and putting too much emphasis on his recruiting impact would be selling Booth the Player short.
His first two years, which overlapped with Joe Smith's, were solidly impressive for a young'un, averaging about 11 points and 7 boards in both seasons. When Smith left, Booth was expected to be the main outlet in the frontcourt, and he filled the role with aplomb, scoring 15.3 ppg and grabbing 8 rebounds per game.
Then backcourt stalwarts Johnny Rhodes and Duane Simpkins left the building, and Booth was left to be the start of the team. He answered the call with one of the better single seasons overseen by Gary Williams, scoring 19.5 a game, grabing 8 boards, and earning 3rd Team All-American honors. Not Walt's 26 per game, but not shabby. In fact, that season is probably a little underrated: his supporting cast was made up of one of the weaker teams of the Gary Golden Era, and he was a huge part - sometimes, it seemed, the only part - of how they made it into the NCAA Tournament.
Booth turned in two solid years, one really good one, and one great one. When all was said and done, only three players scored more points for Gary (Juan, Greivis, and Lonny) and only two grabbed more rebounds (Lonny and T-Mo). Only Joe Smith, Juan Dixon, Steve Francis, and Vasquez received higher national honors than he did. And no one bridged a huge gap - both in its distance and its importance - the way Booth did.