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Almost Glory: the 2001 Maryland Terrapins

On the precipice of greatness.

NCAA Basketball: Marshall at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

They’d vanquish the memories a year later, a title that seems inevitable in hindsight. But in 2001, the young Terps put it all together in just enough stretches to make it seem possible.

Coach: Gary Williams

Record: 25-11 (10-6 in the ACC)

Highest National Ranking: #5 (pre-season)

Key Players/Stats:

  • G Juan Dixon, 18.2 PPG, 2.6 STL
  • F Lonnie Baxter, 15.6 PPG, 7.9 REB
  • F Terence Morris, 12.2 PPG, 7.7 REB
  • G Steve Blake, 6.9 PPG, 6.9 AST

Terence Morris was supposed to be the man. After a sterling sophomore season, the forward earned comparisons to Len Bias for high-flying dunks, floating jumpers, and brilliant passing. “The thing that reminds me of Bias,” Jay Bilas once crowed for an ESPN article, “is that Morris really has no ceiling.”

That assessment proved a fiction. In 1999, pundits pegged Morris a lottery pick along with teammate Steve Francis. He returned to school where, over the course of two seasons, his offensive decline relegated him to a solid mid-tier role player.

It became Juan Dixon’s team instead. The slashing guard worked magic in the backcourt with Steve Blake, popping jumpers off screens and picking more pockets than anyone in a high-major conference.

Maryland puttered at the outset, losing three of their first four to lower-ranked opponents. They rebounded with soft competition and opened conference play 5-1. At the end of January, they welcomed the #2 Duke Blue Devils to College Park for one of the most improbable regular season college basketball games of all time.

That was easily one of the Top 5 Duke teams ever: National POY Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Jay Williams, Chris Duhon. Maryland punched them in the mouth the whole game, through a mixture of toughness of finesse, harnessing a 10-point lead with fifty-five seconds left to play.

Then came the Miracle Minute:

It would prove a harbinger.

The loss sent the Terps into a tailspin, dropping four out of their next five. A win at Wake Forest righted the ship, pushing them towards a thrilling victory at Cameron followed by an absolute beat down of then #7 Virginia to end the season.

In the ACC Tourney, they met Duke again and played another classic, won on a Nate James tip-in after a desperate Steve Blake three had tied the game with under twelve seconds remaining.

Thanks to a stroke of Cinderella’s luck, the #3 Terps faced all bottom seeds on their side of the bracket, en route to a dismantling of the number one team in the nation, the Stanford Cardinal. It was the first Final Four in school history.

And wouldn’t ya know, waving hello across the aisle were the Dukies, for an unprecedented fourth match.

It was a stunner of a game. Maryland shot to a 39-17 lead in the first half but slowly and methodically, the Devils clamped down on defense, forcing a truckload of Maryland turnovers to slice into the deficit before half-time.

Dukedom no doubt chalks up this comeback to a never-say-die Duke attitude, but probably they were just better. Battier showcased the skills that would make him one of the greatest defenders in the NBA. Carlos Boozer dominated off the bench. Jay Williams awoke from a nap to carve up the Maryland defense.

But the Terps kept fighting. Duke got closer, Maryland counter-punched. Until they couldn’t any longer. A Williams three put Duke ahead for the first time and they finished on a tear, out-scoring Maryland 25-12 the last six and a half minutes on their way to the national title game, which they won.

Juan Dixon had a few serviceable years in the league. Steve Blake played big minutes just last year for the Detroit Pistons. Terence Morris drifted off to the side, bouncing around the NBA for a bit and then Europe.

Chris Wilcox emerged as a star in 2002 and helped them cut down the nets. The title game against Indiana wasn’t pretty but it got the job done. Maryland only lost 4 games that year, resting just a little easier. They only played Duke twice.