ATLANTA - Before college's best team is decided by the NCAA Tournament, college basketball's awards for the best player are already awarded.
Jason Williams of Duke swept all of the awards for the nation's top player in the last week.
It may be time for a recount.
While Maryland proved itself as the country's best team in the last three weeks, the Terrapins Juan Dixon has proven himself to be the nation's top player. He was a unanimous selection as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
When it counted the most, Dixon was the best, and did something Williams couldn't - beat Indiana.
The senior from Baltimore had a game-high 18 points as Maryland won the national championship Monday night, beating Indiana 64-52.
"For him to score 18 points on nine attempts tells you what kind of basketball player he is," said Indiana coach Mike Davis. "We knew he would be a handful. I think he's the best player we played against this year other than Jason Williams. They both are in the same class. He's a special guy."
He had 155 total points in the tournament, the eighth-best ever (one more than Williams had last season) and the best since Glen Rice's record 184 points in 1989.
He didn't equal his 33-point output in the semifinal win over Kansas, but he didn't have to.
Dixon was perfect in the first half, going 4-for-4 from the field, 1-for-1 from 3 and 2-for-2 from the line. And unlike his counterpart at Duke, didn't miss a free throw all night, making all four of his attempts from the line.
"You look at his stats and he's just an amazing college basketball player," said Maryland coach Gary Williams.
When his team needed him the most, he was there.
In the midst of a 20-minute drought in which he didn't score, Indiana's Jared Jeffries gave the Hoosiers their first lead of the night at 44-42 with 9:52 left in the game.
Maryland raced down the court and Dixon fired a 3-pointer and drained it.
That would be the Hoosiers' only lead of the night, and it lasted only eight seconds.
"I was just trying to be patient," Dixon said. "I tried to let the game just come to me. I got a great pass from Blake and was able to knock that one down."
But Dixon didn't even know that Indiana had taken the lead.
"I never saw the score, at the time, I knew they hit a big shot and the crowd was going wild," Dixon said.
Steve Blake was able to get into the lane and find Dixon to his right.
"I just found the open man," Blake said.
When Dixon's the open man, he'll likely knock down the shot. He did, and it ended Indiana's chances.
"If we would have gotten a stop, we could have gotten a four- or five-point lead, but he was able to make the shot," said Indiana's Jeffries. "He hit a big shot, he's a big-time player and he made a big-time shot."
Said Williams, "Not every big player wants to take those shots, and Juan has never been afraid to take that shot. And Juan did what he's done all year for us."
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