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John Feinstein: Terps Place in NCAA Tournament Is Secure

Duke wins the 2009 ACC men's basketball tournament in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, defeating Florida State in the final, 79-69.

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By John Feinstein
Saturday, March 14, 2009

ATLANTA

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As soon as it was over, Greivis Vasquez was jumping into Gary Williams's arms, wanting to share the moment with his coach. For a split second -- no more -- Williams actually smiled. He knew, just as Vasquez did, that the soap opera that has been Maryland's basketball season had taken a twist few outside the locker room imagined as recently as five days ago.

When the NCAA tournament bracket is unveiled Sunday evening, Maryland will be in it. If the Terrapins can continue their run in the ACC tournament for another day or even two, that will be gravy. Friday night was the game. Facing a Wake Forest team that should have been about the Terps' worst possible matchup because of its size, the Terrapins took the lead at 6-4 and never looked back.

They coasted to a 75-64 victory that puts them in Saturday's semifinals against Duke and -- if the tournament selection committee is paying any attention -- in the NCAA field for just the second time in five seasons.

"We were pretty good tonight," Williams conceded, walking down a hallway in the Georgia Dome. He was fighting a smile because, as he pointed out, enjoying a win such as this for very long just isn't his way.

"It's not what I do. We get back to the hotel; I'll start looking at tape. I'm not going to take an hour to sit back and enjoy this. I figure if the players are giving 100 percent effort -- and this team has done that -- then I better give 100 percent effort too."

He would at least take time to eat though, right?

"I can eat while I watch tape," he said.

That relentless, nothing-is-ever-enough nature has made Williams the coach that he is. His personality lives on-court in Vasquez, who may take the occasional wild shot or get out of control at times but clearly lives to play the game.

Friday was a typical Vasquez game. He made just 6 of 19 from the field, but he had nine assists and eight rebounds and constantly pleaded and cajoled with his teammates not to back off, not to let the talented Demon Deacons get back into the game.

At one point late in the first half, as Adrian Bowie was about to shoot free throws, Vasquez stood in front of him and delivered a stern lecture. Bowie kept nodding his head; Vasquez kept talking.


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