We usually have some sense of when an upset is possible, but lately it's failed us twice: we didn't see Virginia's win over Clemson at all, and we surely didn't see Maryland's incredible win over UNC coming.
What an impressive job by the Terps and in particular by Greivis Vasquez, who had a phenomenal game with 35 points, 11 boards, and 10 assists.Â The students who booed him a few weeks ago rushed the court this time to celebrate with him.
For Gary Williams, how many wins have been sweeter than this one?Â Whenever he retires, he'll sit back and think of a few big wins.Â Surely some Duke games will be on his list, including his sole ACC title.Â And obviously, since he hasn't quit talking about his national title since he won it, that will be on the list.
He won't quit talking about this one anytime soon.Â UNC had a 16 point lead, and at roughly that point in the game, we were thinking they were going to take Maryland like a python takes a rabbit and just squeeze the life out of them.
Didn't quite happen like that.Â The Terps fought back, pushed the game into overtime, and despite being overmatched at almost every position save one, despite three players fouling out, despite a severe talent imbalance, they outfought UNC.Â In so doing, they epitomizedÂ the best of Gary Williams' career as both a coach and player.Â He was never the most talented player and has never had the most talent as a coach, although that's arguably his own fault. He is a difficult man, abusive at times, almost always abrasive, glowering and full of resentments catalogued since his days as a point guard.Â That many have perceived him as being less than the best has always motivated him and has led him to some remarkable triumphs.Â Not many surpass this one.
For UNC, this loss underscores a couple of things we've talked about over the last few years. Since Tyler Hansbrough showed up, for the life of us, we don't understand why the Heels haven't taken on his personality. It's really kind of jarring, but no one else works as hard as he does.Â We don't mean to compare him to Christian Laettner - that's not fair - but Laettner's intensity transferred to his teammates.Â Hansbrough's never really has.Â It's a mystery.
And secondly, Maryland's win lends credence to another argument:Â UNC can be had by a team that's mentally tougher.Â Whether it's George Mason, Georgetown, Kansas, B.C., Wake or Maryland, when another team refuses to back down, UNC often blinks. Not always: think FSU this season and Clemson last year, both dramatic, gutty wins for UNC.Â But often enough.
Speaking of Florida State, it might have gotten lost in the drama of Maryland's win, but with their win over Virginia Tech, the 'Noles are now in second place in the ACC. Given a 21-6 record to go with that, they're in.
Given the way Tech's season has gone, it's perhaps appropriate that FSU won on a runner by Toney Douglas with six seconds left.Â Think how differently things could have been had Xavier not hit that last-second shot, had they not blown games to Seton Hall and Georgia, and if they could have managed to stop a clearly weakened Wisconsin team. They'd be 20-6 now.Â If they could have won narrow games against Clemson, Wake, and B.C., well...23-6 was pretty close, like 14 points away.
Miami simply had to win against B.C. or give up, and they pulled it off, downing the Eagles, 69-58 to move to 16-10 overall and 5-8 in the ACC.Â B.C., not for the first time this year, failed to build on a big win.
Miami controlled the game from start to finish.
And finally, State continues an impressive late-season resurrection.Â You really have to give Sidney Lowe credit.Â This is a team with very weak guard play, and one which appeared, not that long ago, headed to a losing season.
Since losing to UNC on January 31st, State has really turned it around.Â Toss out N.C. Central, although they won that game, but it is meaningless in terms of any sort of measurement.Â They had a big lead against Virginia Tech before losing, then dominated Wake for much of that game, dominated Tech, gave UNC a much tougher rematch, and now took Virginia on Saturday, 72-67.
They could have lost it, too.Â State had an eight point lead late which fell to one before they pulled themselves together.Â But they did.
We don't expect to see State win all four games they have left.Â But you can't rule it out at this point, either.Â They can beat any of them.Â Go into the tourney hot, and who knows? They could still play their way in. A lot has to go right, but did you think that was even possible a month ago?
With FSU's big win today, the logjam at #2 will have to wait until Sunday to break up. Either Duke or Wake will fall back, and while Clemson is favored over Tech, the Yellow Jackets still have some sting left.