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00000176-770f-dc2f-ad76-7f0fad990000Monday at 5:44 pmEmail Sports at Large

Can The Terps Go Out (of the ACC) With A Bang?

Caroline Terp via flickr
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For some, March is a time of valediction, of saying goodbye, in college sports, and basketball in particular. On Tuesday night, in College Park, two distinct and memorable periods of history come to an end in one fell swoop.

When the horn sounds at the conclusion of the second round game in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament between Maryland and Texas, it will mark the last home basketball game played by a Terrapin team as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. While Maryland teams in lacrosse, baseball, softball and track will continue to play through the rest of the spring, for all practical purposes, 60 years of history ends at the Comcast Center Tuesday night.

When fans stream in next fall, the letters ACC that rest just inside the free throw lines on either half of the court will be gone, and replaced by something that looks like B-I-G, to reflect Maryland’s new membership in the Big Ten Conference. So much has been said about the departure of the Maryland program from its historic home. There will doubtless be more to say, but not today.

Instead, let’s spend some time reflecting on the end of another era, that of Maryland star Alyssa Thomas. Thomas is a 6-foot-2 senior from Harrisburg, Pa., and when her career ends, either Tuesday against Texas or in a subsequent game, it will conclude with her being one of the greatest players in Terrapin history, men’s or women’s. With 2,271 points, Thomas has scored more points than any player – male or female – to wear the red, white, black and gold.

If you want to argue whether she’s better than your favorite male Terp, be my guest, but know this: At a school where basketball is king, Alyssa Thomas wears a pretty significant crown. Thomas has six career triple doubles, or games where a player achieves double figures in three statistical categories in the same contest. The record for NCAA women’s basketball is seven. A triple double has only occurred 10 times in Maryland basketball history, men’s or women’s. In addition, Alyssa Thomas has been named the best freshman in the ACC, as well as its best overall player as a sophomore and junior as well as this year. That’s only happened one other time in league history. She will certainly be named an All-American for the third time in her career in the next few weeks, but her legend doesn’t fall trippingly off the tongues of women’s basketball aficionados as perhaps it should. Part of that is because Thomas is a quiet person. She has become a better interview now than at the start of her collegiate career, but it has taken some work. The other reason is that unlike Crystal Langhorne, Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman, the cornerstones of Maryland’s 2006 national title, Thomas has yet to win a national championship or get to a Final Four.

Getting such a banner would be a nice way to cap a career and an era.