Juan Dixon doesn’t know the kind of reception he will receive Thursday when he walks into Assembly Hall for the first time. The former Maryland star, now a special assistant to Mark Turgeon, doesn’t even know if this generation of Indiana basketball will make the connection.
It has been nearly 13 years since Dixon, then a senior and one of the best college players in the country, broke the collective heart of Hoosiers everywhere. He didn’t do it in a regular season game like the one No. 13 Maryland and No. 23 Indiana will play here at 9 p.m.
Dixon did it on the sport’s biggest stage – the 2002 NCAA championship game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, where he led the Terps to a 64-52 victory and the school’s only men’s basketball national title. After scoring 33 points in the semifinals against Kansas – Turgeon’s alma mater – Dixon had 18 against Indiana.
The game has been replayed many times over the past few years, particularly when the Terps officially joined the Big Ten last summer.
“I’ve watched it quite a few times,” Dixon said.
Asked Wednesday in College Park about his emotions going into Thursday’s game between the Terps (17-2) and Hoosiers (14-4), Dixon had a question of his own.
“Do you want my politically correct answer or do you want my heart – the truthful answer?” he said, standing outside the team’s locker room before practice.
As usual, Dixon spoke the truth.
“To be honest with you, I have butterflies going to Indiana,” Dixon said. “It’s a team we were able to beat in 2002 and I never played at that arena. I know it’s historic, they had a great coach [in Bob Knight] who coached there for many years. It will be an honor for me to witness that whole environment.”
Dixon said that he didn’t think about Indiana when he first heard that Maryland was moving to the Big Ten. Even after joining Turgeon’s staff in November 2013, the thought of playing the Hoosiers didn’t creep into Dixon’s head. It wasn’t until the schedule came out last summer that it began to become a reality.
“It’s something that I’m looking forward to, especially how well we’ve been playing,” Dixon said. “It will be tremendous for us to keep up the momentum going into Indiana and hopefully we continue to play well.”
Dixon said he had “no idea” what kind of reception he would get from the Hoosiers fans.
“It’s been 12, 13 years, however long it’s been,” he said. “It’s probably the last time they’ve been in a national championship. Hopefully I don’t open up any old wounds if people recognize me on the bench.”