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Top Terp Tournament: #4 Walt Williams vs. #5 Steve Blake

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Characterizing this choice as "difficult" isn't really doing it justice. I know I wouldn't want to be in your guys' shoes right now. This is probably the first truly tough decision in the tournament, though I'm sure it won't be the last.

We have the point guard of the national championship-winning team, so near and dear to our hearts, against one of the players who made all of that possible. A sensational scorer against a sensational passer. Have fun.

The #4 Seed:#42, Walt Williams, G/F, 1988-1992

When Gary Williams inherited the Maryland program in '89, he inherited a team in shambles and a program under sanctions. If you think Mark Turgeon has it bad - and he does - the current situation doesn't touch what Gary had. But it would've been significantly worse if one Walt Williams, a 6-8 point forward from Temple Hills, had bolted. Instead, he stayed, and became the first legend of the Gary era.

He could play anywhere on the floor from point guard to power forward, and - playing on dilapidated squads (with the obvious exception of Tony Massenburg and Evers Burns) - he often did. His sophomore year was solid, but he saw his breakout season in '90-'91, his junior year, when he started 14 games and averaged 18.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game, despite missing six weeks in the middle of the season with a broken leg.

But he surpassed all expectations in his sensational senior campaign, in which he averaged an incredible 26.8 ppg and scored at least 30 points in seven straight games - two records which Terp greats like Juan Dixon and Joe Smith have never approached. His absurd senior year garnered him 2nd Team All-American honors - the first Terp to do so since Bias. The Wizard possessed a wonderfully versatile offensive arsenal, from knocking down 3s to the odd post move, and his size made him a match-up nightmare. On a stronger team, he'd have topped 5 assists per game with regularity, too.

Remarkably, despite the fantastic senior season enjoyed by Williams, the Terrapins had a losing record, a telling sign of how much damage the sanctions had on the program and of the team surrounding Williams. But Williams kept them relevant in a time when it would've been very easy for them to fall off the map. Statistically, he probably had the best single season of any player in the Gary Williams era, but what really stands out about the Wizard is what his entire career meant to the program as a whole.

(And don't forget about the high socks!)

The #5 Seed: #25, Steve Blake, G, 1999-2003

Blake, unlike almost everyone else in this bracket, was not a scorer. True, he did have the odd big shot or 20-point game, particularly toward the latter part of his career, but he didn't put up points on a regular basis. Far from it. He never averaged in double-digits in points until his senior year, when he and Drew Nicholas were the only great players on the team. Until then, he averaged 7.0, 6.6, and 8.0 points per game. Hardly big numbers.

But when you have guys like Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter, you don't need a scoring point guard. You need a pass-first point guard, and Blake was one of the best in history. Look at the numbers: Blake has more assists than anyone in Maryland history, 200 more than second place's Greivis Vasquez. He's fifth on the all-time NCAA list. He never averaged less than 6 a game, and in the championship season, he averaged 7.9 - that is, he had more assists than points. The three best single season assist totals in Maryland history come from him. His career average of 7.0 assists per game is tops as well. Basically, if there's any record related to assists, Blake has claimed it.

But he was crucial in more ways than passing. He was a solid defender, a good outside shooter, and a steadying force. What's most striking about Blake's career, to me, is that he came in and starter near every game as a freshman. There were no other point guards on the roster (well, Earl Badu, but I don't think he counts), so Blake started all but two games his first season. Those two games are the only two games he didn't start in his college career.

You'd be right if you said that Blake would be measured as well by his team's success as his own numbers. That's the case with most true point guards. And given that Blake won a national championship, well, it's tough to say he was anything other than great.