With sports slowly trickling back onto our television sets, it’s time to wrap up bracket season at Testudo Times. Our Maryland women’s basketball bracket madness series is down to two.
We started with 32 all-time Terps, then trimmed the field to 16, then had three matchups of former teammates in the Elite Eight, then brought in some fresh perspectives for the Final Four. Now it’s all come down to Alyssa Thomas and Crystal Langhorne — Nos. 1 and 2 on Maryland’s all-time scoring and rebounding lists — in the finals.
It’s your choice. Let’s jump in.
Both semifinal matchups were closely contested. Thomas and Langhorne both breezed through the bracket up to the Final Four, but they faced stiff competition in Kristi Toliver and Vicky Bullett, respectively.
Thomas captured 57.4 percent of the vote against Toliver — who actually led in Twitter votes but couldn’t overcome a more significant deficit on the site — while Langhorne received 58.7 percent of the vote against Bullett.
Here are the full Final Four bracket results.
|Alyssa Thomas||57.4%||292||242 (61.9%)||50 (42.4%)||Kristi Toliver||42.6%||217||149 (38.1%)||68 (57.6%)|
|Crystal Langhorne||58.7%||276||223 (57.7%)||53 (63.1%)||Vicky Bullett||41.3%||194||163 (42.3%)||31 (36.9%)|
ALYSSA THOMAS (2010-14)
Career stats: 17.5 pts, 9.1 rebs, 3.6 asts, 1.8 stls
Best season: 2013-14 (senior) — 19.0 pts, 10.9 rebs, 4.1 asts, 1.5 stls
Totals: 2,356 points (1st), 1,235 rebounds (1st), 488 assists (5th), 238 steals (6th)
Awards: 3x ACC POY (2012-14), 3x All-American (2012-14), 3x All-ACC First Team (2012-14), NCAA regional MOP (2014), ACC Tournament MVP (2012), ACC ROY (2011)
CRYSTAL LANGHORNE (2004-08)
Career stats: 16.6 pts, 9.1 rebs, 1.5 asts, 1.1 stls
Best season: 2005-06 (sophomore) — 17.2 pts, 8.6 rebs, 2.0 asts, 0.7 stls, 0.3 blks
Totals: 2,247 points (2nd), 1,229 rebounds (2nd), 889 field goals (2nd), 469 free throws (4th)
Awards: 3x All-American (2006-08), ACC POY (2008), 3x All-ACC First Team (2006-08), ACC ROY (2005)
Four years can be a long time, and four years can fly by so fast.
This holds true in college as much as anywhere in life. We show up as wide-eyed freshmen and, at least in theory, become adults. We take in new experiences and set a foundation for the rest of our lives. Yet we still remember those early days — moving in, that first class, that first time in the student section — even long after the four years have come and gone.
College athletes go through that maturation process in front of the public eye, and there are numbers quantifying their progress. In four short years, they go from rookies to veterans. And in some cases, they become part of the fabric of their programs and universities.
The best prospects in women’s basketball come to campus with some level of established stardom — they’ve showed out in all-star games and carried teams to championships. But there’s always room to wonder how they will respond to a quicker, bigger, more physical game in college. It’s never a given that they’ll leave a lasting legacy in just four years.
That’s what Crystal Langhorne did, and that’s what Alyssa Thomas did.
When Langhorne enrolled at Maryland in 2004, the Terps were coming off a 10-18 season. Brenda Frese was still trying to rebuild the program, and Langhorne chose being a part of that over more sure-thing opportunities at schools like UConn or Tennessee. She became a superstar in College Park, garnering three All-America nods. More importantly, Langhorne said she wanted to help bring a championship to Maryland, and she became the centerpiece of a core that did just that in 2006.
Thomas, too, was an All-American in high school and a top-10 prospect in the nation before joining Maryland. And she, too, wasted no time becoming a star in the college game. Thomas won ACC Rookie of the Year as a freshman and then won the league’s Player of the Year three consecutive seasons. She helped carry her team through an injury-plagued 2013 season, then led Maryland back to the Four as a senior in 2014.
The numbers and accolades speak for themselves. Langhorne graduated as Maryland’s all-time leader in points and rebounds, and as the only three-time All-American basketball player in Terps history (men’s or women’s). Thomas, who arrived two years after Langhorne left, became a three-time All-American herself in addition to her three ACC Player of the Year honors. And in her senior postseason, she broke Langhorne’s scoring and rebounding records and even overtook Juan Dixon as Maryland basketball’s all-time top scorer.
But greatness is about so much more than numbers. In basketball, the greatest players can shine individually while simultaneously blending in as part of a team. Thomas’ passing and playmaking made everyone around her better. And Langhorne’s selflessness allowed Maryland’s other stars to blossom.
Thomas had the strength of a post player and the speed and ball-handling skills of a guard, a skill set that drew comparisons to LeBron James — her prevailing nickname was “The Female LeBron.” This versatility was reflected both on stat sheets and in how Maryland revolved its offense around her. Thomas shifted to point guard as a junior when the Terps were riddled with injuries, averaging 5.3 assists. And when Maryland added backcourt depth for the following season, Thomas became even more of an inside presence, pulling down a career-best 10.9 rebounds per game.
A unique wrinkle to Langhorne’s greatness was that she wasn’t always the star of the show. Maryland had three other prolific scorers in Toliver, Marissa Coleman and Shay Doron, plus another reliable post presence in Laura Harper. While Langhorne was Maryland’s leading scorer in all four of her seasons, her averages weren’t as dominant as they’d be on less loaded teams. It didn’t matter to her. She was always happy to get the ball, and the left-hander was as surefire a bucket as you’d find, shooting 65.2 percent on field goals in her career.
Forcing a choice between these two is obviously a trivial exercise. Both players have legitimate claims as the greatest in program history. Thomas’ individual resume stands apart from anyone to ever put on a Maryland basketball uniform. Langhorne was the centerpiece of that 2006 team that reached the mountaintop. You can make convincing arguments for Bullett and Toliver as well.
As college stars reach milestones and break records, it’s common to compare them to legends of the past, both near and distant. Being in exclusive company is often humbling, but players seem to always embrace it. In some ways, it’s a validation of four years of hard work and development. Because even as these kids grow into some of the biggest names in women’s basketball, they still remember being the rookie who hoped to one day leave a legacy.
Under Frese, Maryland has developed a tradition of celebrating all-time great Terps by raising their jerseys into the Xfinity Center rafters on their senior day, after the completion of their final regular-season home game. Langhorne’s No. 1, fittingly, was the first to be honored in this way. Six years later, Thomas’ No. 25 was unveiled in the rafters just the same.
It all happens so fast. Potential becomes prowess in a hurry. And in four years, it can become something to remember forever.
Maryland women’s basketball bracket madness final: Alyssa Thomas vs. Crystal Langhorne
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