It's been something of a slog but it's finally here. The Maryland women's basketball team will take to the floor at the Comcast Center for the last time in the regular season as a member of the
All Carolina - sorry - Atlantic Coast Conference. Terrapins fans will likely have to endure two more games with that logo on the court when Maryland hosts the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament on March 23 and March 25. After that the logo will look something like this: B1G.
Thankfully, the ACC is nothing if not classy. And they've demonstrated that once again by having Maryland close out their time in the conference by hosting one of their longest standing, most bitter rivals, and founding ACC member the Virginia Tech Hokies. Wait, what? You say they're not a long standing rival. This is only the sixteenth game all-time between the schools. But the fans really hate...They don't? One fan base couldn't care less about the other. Well, at least Tech's one of the founding... Oh. 2003? And the ACC was? 1953. I see. Well, I guess they have to play the game anyway right?
My sarcastic rant is over and now I'm going to devote a paragraph or two to actually previewing Virginia Tech because, in truth, that's about all they deserve. The Hokies enter the game 4-11 in ACC play and 14-14 overall. They will finish somewhere in the bottom quarter of the conference. Like Maryland's previous opponent, the BC Eagles, Virginia Tech likes to play slow ball. They average 65 points per game - good for somewhere around thirteenth in the league. They are solid defensively. They yield 63 points per game placing them third in the league behind Notre Dame and Maryland.
They have one featured player - senior forward Uju Ugoka. The native Nigerian leads the Hokies in scoring and is fourth in the ACC at 18.7 points per game. She is also Tech's leading rebounder pulling down 9.8 which is good for third in the conference. In last Monday's upset at North Carolina, the Hokies discovered freshman guard Vanessa Panousis who was the game's leading scorer with 24 points. So, I guess the Terps do need to be focused because Tech is capable of warping the statistics and pulling an upset.
The game does have some meaning in the standings for Maryland. A Terrapins win coupled with an NC State loss to Notre Dame will give the Terps sole possession of third place in the final ACC standings. This makes their potential semi-final matchup a depleted Duke team rather than a healthy squad from South Bend.
Now let's get to the real reason this game merited a preview. It's senior day for Maryland. Terrapins fans will be able to bid farewell to two players whose resumes aren't long but whose impact on the fans has been - favorites Sequoia Austin and Essence Townsend. Joining Austin and Townsend in the pre-game ceremonies will be Alicia DeVaughn - a stalwart defensive presence for her four years as a Terp - and Katie Rutan - the transfer from Xavier who brought these Terps a deadly shooting eye and an unexpected and welcome degree of toughness.
So come out and bid farewell to a group that's gone...Wait, I overlooked someone? Oh, right that Thomas kid from Harrisburg.
Alyssa Thomas. What can I write about the force of nature that is Alyssa Thomas. If she didn't play another game as a Terp her name would be at or near the top of nearly every Maryland women's basketball career statistical category.
For those of you who haven't been out to see her play in person, here's a brief sample of some of what you've missed.
The voice recognition software made an appropriate mistake recently when I mentioned her name. I said Alyssa Thomas, and the software heard, "all this is Thomas." So as we look at where she stands thus far remember, all this is Thomas:
In her career she's scored 2,214 points behind only Crystal Langhorne's 2,247.
She is second on the career rebounds list with 1,155 again trailing only Langhorne.
Only five Terrapins have handed out more assists than Thomas' 463 and with 24 more she will pass Anjale Barrett for sole possession of fifth place.
She might not quite crack the top five in steals but then again she might. Right now she has 228 placing her seventh all time. With 9 she'll pass Chiquita Wood and if she can amass 15 more will pass Myra Walters to claim her spot in that top five.
Look at the list of most field goals made and you'll find only Langhorne's 889 exceed Thomas' 837.
Thomas already sits atop the list of most free throws made with 523 and is again second to Langhorne in free throws attempted.
I haven't mentioned her durability. She has never missed a game in her Terrapin career. Sunday will mark the 129th
consecutive game and start for AT. (Note: Further research reveals that Thomas did miss one game - a 2011-2012 loss to Virginia Tech. My apologies for the error.)
Then there are those double-doubles. Thomas already tops the leader board with 60.
I'd be remiss if I forgot to include her status as a two time All-American, the ACC Freshman of the Year, and back to back winner of the ACC Player of the Year. (I'm betting she goes three for three.)
And I've saved the most ridiculous number for last. Alyssa Thomas has six triple doubles in her career including the only one in the history of the ACC Tournament and four in her senior season alone. By herself, Thomas has more triple doubles than every other player in Maryland basketball history. That includes every men's player and every women's player combined. Let me say that again: By herself, Thomas has more triple doubles than every other Maryland basketball player men and women combined.
So, I hope you understand Maryland's decision to have this post-game ceremony:
When the Terps raise Alyssa Thomas' #25 to the rafters on senior day where it will join other honored giants of Maryland Terrapins basketball. It certainly belongs there.
My dreams don't often become reality. But you all can help with this one. You see, in this dream, the Comcast Center is filled to capacity. In this dream, seventeen thousand nine hundred and fifty people will rise to their feet as one. And in this dream, their applause will say, "Thank you, Alyssa. Thank you Alyssa for four amazing years. Thank you, Alyssa. You've earned it."