What If #1: Maryland Basketball Beats Michigan State Part II


April 3, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; New Orleans Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez (21) looks on during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Hornets 98-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: This was written by Art Ferrer as the finale of his What If segment. It’s posted under my name, but all credit goes to him. We hope you enjoyed the series, and you can find Part I here on TSMD.

If Maryland goes on to beat Butler in the 2010 National Semi-Final, it would set up one of the most epic National Championship games that could possibly be played.

To the people that say Duke/Maryland isn’t a rivalry, this game would have ended any argument you had. No one wants to lose a championship game, there are no moral victories if you lose, but saying neither one of these teams would want to lose to the other is a complete understatement. Yes, Duke vs North Carolina would be bigger, but no one in Durham would want to deal with Maryland fans if they lost this game and vice versa.

This game would have been a treat for any basketball fan. Both teams were deep, well coaches, and had great collegiate-level players.  Both teams split the season series, taking the games on their home court. Duke’s win over Maryland was by a larger margin, but Maryland got hot following that loss and won seven games in a row. Duke also hadn’t lost a game since the March 3rd game at Comcast Center, beating UNC in the season finale, winning the ACC Tournament, and then advancing to the National Championship game.

Thanks to the Jon Pence at SCACCHoops.com we can use his game simulator to see how this game would have gone. This game has been simmed on SCACCHoops.com game simulator 80 times. Duke has won 52 of those 80. The average score is Maryland 68.0 Duke 71.9 (For what it’s worth, the first time I simmed it, I got the result Maryland 71 Duke 66).

Like the Butler matchup, we will look at both potential outcomes to see where it leaves us, starting by discussing the impact of a 2010 Final Four run on Coach Gary Williams legacy. The season before, the Washington Post ran a three piece series outlining the short comings of the basketball program after the 2002 National Championship. There was word of a letter Athletic Director Debbie Yow sent to some alumni attempting to gain enough funding to buyout Gary Williams contract. Yow’s attempt fell short, and the Washington Post article inspired many fans to get behind the coach; alumni iwore t-shirts and distributed buttons at games in a show of support for the beleaguered sideline general.

But if Maryland beats Michigan State and Tennessee to make it to the 2010 Final Four, Gary would silence many if not all of his critics. A loss to Butler, while disappointing, would still make the 2009-2010 season a successful campaign. After a slow start, Gary would have gotten team to not only make a run in the ACC but also in the NCAA Tournament.

If Maryland defeats Butler, but drops the National Championship game against Duke. This outcome would hurt us as fans because of its bittersweet taste. Coming up short in the championship game hurts, but when you never expected to play in the championship game it is a great feeling to have had such a successful season. But as successful as the season was, losing the championship to your rival is

a tough pill to swallow

like being asked to swallow a Barbaro-sized pill. Sure there would be Gary Williams critics who would point to another loss against Duke as a suggestion that he be fired, but they would be in the extreme minority.

In a perfect world, Maryland defeats Butler and Duke. Gary Williams, after cutting down the nets, looks at the camera, cues up Gladiator, and says something along the lines of, “Are you not entertained!?” and drops the mic. Debbie Yow and the rest of the Gary Williams haters cry themselves to sleep that night, while preparing to tell everyone the next day that they were never against him. Students at Cornerstone, Thirsty Turtle, and Bentley’s flood the streets of College Park, while couches burn on Frat Row. Someone throws a brick through the Shanghai Cafe window, others climb the traffic light, and no one attends class the next day. To this day, Shanghai is still open despite missing a window, while the Barking Dog’s opening is delayed after having to replace the upstairs floor that caved in. After being overtaken by a mob of students, Ratsie’s is returned to it’s owners. Fireworks are launched from Knox Field, where students don’t stop partying until Thursday, only to take the day off and start all over on Friday.

Next up is Maryland’s senior point guard, Greivis Vasquez. Against Georgia Tech on February 20, Vasquez scored his 2,000th point of his career. Only Juan Dixon and Len Bias had scored 2,000 points during their time at Maryland. Against Houston in the first round, Vasquez passed Bias to become the second-highest scorer in Maryland history. Dixon, however, was helped by having a Final Four run his junior year, and a National Championship run his senior year. Dixon finished his career with 2,269 points, while Vasquez finished with 2,171 points, only 98 points behind Dixon. Vasquez averaged 19.6 points per game his senior season; if he did that four more times (Northern Iowa, Tennessee, Butler, Duke) it would have only been 78 points, leaving him twenty behind Dixon.

For Vasquez to tie Juan Dixon, he would have had to average 24.5 points in those four games. That season Vasquez had scored over 20 points sixteen times, and over 25 points nine times. It wouldn’t be out of the picture for Vasquez to get hot in that four game stretch. If Maryland was going to win the National Championship, it would be Vasquez who led them there. While Vasquez had great court vision, and gift for passing, he finished his career second, behind Steve Blake, for most assist. But with 200 less assist than Blake, Vasquez would have had to do some unbelievable things while getting a lot of luck to record 200 assist in four games.

Vasquez is the only player in ACC history to record over 2,000 points, 700 assist, and 500 rebounds. He would finish first in points, second in assist, and twentieth in rebounds (Vasquez finished 22nd with 647 rebounds, averaged 4.6 in 2010, which with four extra games bumps him to 20th). Vasquez averaged 2.1 made threes a game; with four extra games he would finish with 238 career made threes, just one behind Juan Dixon. The two of them would have finished in the same area for most categories in Maryland history.

It would be tough to say who the All-Time Terp is if Greivis leads Maryland to the National Championship. Long term for the program, Gary Williams is probably still coaching today. There’s the slight chance that he retires on top, but it is very slim. With another National Championship under his belt, Gary would relish the opportunity to continue to prove his haters wrong. If he leaves in 2010, he only gives Debbie Yow and the rest of the anti-Gary support what they wanted.

Gary wouldn’t have known about upcoming Maryland Pride movement, but with a National Champions playing at the flagship Under Amour school, it might push Kevin Plank to get the ball rolling on it sooner. Does this change Gary Williams reluctance to get involved in the AAU circuit? Probably not, but he still sees an uptick in recruiting. Gary was stuck in his ways, and I doubt that winning his second championship would get him to recruit the Kevin Durant-type players. But Gary was on his way to securing recruits like Justin Anderson and Shaq Cleare. A National Championship helps him, and his staff compete for bigger recruits, but they wouldn’t be cleaning up house like Kentucky or Mark Turgeon currently.

The Michigan State game is one that will haunt Terp fans for awhile. Coach Turgeon has Maryland on the right track, but for many of us that 2009-2010 team was one for the ages. But unfortunately, they were never able to reach a national level of success. Had Korie Lucious missed the shot at the buzzer, Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Landon Milbourne would have had their shot at one shining moment.

And I’d be much happier.