The NCAA announced the women's basketball tournament bracket pairings Monday night and Maryland's spot certainly came as a surprise to me. Perhaps I should say one aspect surprised me. I fully expected the Terrapins to be a four seed. However, I expected them to be a fourth seed in the Lincoln region where they would draw Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen. Instead, the Committee sent the Terps to Louisville where Tennessee is the top seed. Of course, Maryland will have to win their two games in College Park to make that trip.
Should the Terps make that trip, playing the Volunteers will be no picnic. Playing the fifth hardest schedule in women's basketball this season, the Vols finished 27-5 and we'll have more on the Vols later in the week. For the moment, I think most Terrapins fans share Lexi Brown's sentiment, "Not being in UConn's region is great. We haven't had the best of luck with them the last two seasons." Not to worry, Lexie. The teams that have had "the best of luck" with UConn form an exclusive club limited to Notre Dame and Baylor.
How did Coach Frese react to the the Terps' placement? I can quote her here but can't quite transcribe the excitement and energy of her response. "Obviously thrilled. We don't know a lot about the different teams. Army will bring a level of toughness into Comcast Center but I love our bracket. We're focused and we know you've got to be able to take one game at a time to be able to advance." She said the team is looking forward to bringing their best forty minutes to the floor at Comcast Center beginning Sunday and "every time we step on the floor."
I asked about a possible matchup with Tennessee. "It's been since 2006 the last time we had a game against Tennessee so it would be a tremendous honor. It would definitely be a game that we would welcome and that we would look forward to."
She feels her squad has put the disappointment of the loss in Greensboro behind them. "We've had a lot of time to be able to focus on us which has been a really good thing and to take some lessons from what happened."
Freshman Shatori Walker-Kimbrough will play in her first NCAA Tournament. "I'm pumped. I'm excited for Sunday. It didn't matter who we played, what region we're in." She also indicated that the team has a renewed focus. "It's getting very competitive in practice. I think that the North Carolina loss made us realize how much harder we need to work and so we've been pushing each other in practice to the max."
For Laurin Mincy returning after missing last season due to an injury, "It definitely feels good to be back. Last year I wasn't able to play and help this team." She hopes to be able to use her experience - especially having reached the Elite Eight as a sophomore - to guide some some of the younger players. "The focus this week has been on defense and rebounding. It's been very intense. Everyone has to understand that we have to be mentally tough. These games are going to come down to who's mentally stronger and who wants it more."
The Terps and their fans will find out who wants it more beginning Sunday when, for the second time in three years they will open their NCAA run against the champions of the Patriot League. Two years ago it was Navy. Sunday, it will be Army. The tipoff is scheduled for 12:30 Sunday afternoon.