Unlike the men’s team, Maryland women’s basketball didn’t have to wait long on Selection Monday.
After Connecticut and UCLA’s pods were announced, the next matchup that flashed on ESPN was No. 6-seed West Virginia vs. No. 11-seed Elon. The location: College Park, Maryland. This meant that Maryland was the No. 3 in the Bridgeport Region, and would have to go through the Huskies just to make the Final Four.
“You can only control what you can control, and I think that’s outside of our control,” senior center Brionna Jones said. “We did what we came to do. We won the Big Ten.”
The contrast between the polls and the committee’s view of Maryland turned into a major storyline mid-season. The Terps were No. 9 in the committee’s initial rankings, and moved up to No. 7 on the night they lost to Ohio State four weeks later. In the AP and Coaches Polls, Maryland never dropped below No. 6 all year.
But the committee couldn’t ignore some of the flaws in the Terps’ resume. They played just three NCAA tournament teams in non-conference play, and had few chances to rack up additional quality wins in a weak Big Ten.
“In all my years of doing this, I understand the non-conference component but it’s never been weighted 100 percent,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Watching us play, we had no bad losses, we had 30 wins and won the regular season, we won the tournament.
“It’s disappointing because we felt like we controlled our destiny and what we did was win.”
The seeding is set, so the only thing Maryland can do is look forward. This team has wanted to send Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough out in style since the beginning of the season, and being under-seeded may only add motivation.
“We can’t control our seeding, we can only control what we do,” junior guard Kristen Confroy said. “I know for a lot of our team, we’re highly motivated, and especially feeling a little bit disrespected moving forward is only going to make us work harder and take it one game at a time and be the best team you can be.”
Looking forward starts with preparing for Bucknell, who Maryland will play on Friday in the first round. While the Terps should win, the Bison present a possible challenge, having won 11 straight and allowing just 57.7 points per game.
“We kind of saw it coming with a lot of projections early, we knew the NCAA was unhappy with our strength of schedule, so once again it’s something that’s not ideal, but we can’t control it,” Confroy said. “We can control how we practice tomorrow and how we prepare for Bucknell on Friday.”
Maryland could face a tough matchup in the second round for the second year in a row, as West Virginia beat Baylor in the Big 12 tournament final. But right now, the team insists its only focus is Friday.
“Just one game at a time is the best thing we can do,” freshman point guard Destiny Slocum said.
This sounds like a media-trained remark, but it could mean something for the Terps. Last year, 7-seed Washington ended Maryland’s season on it’s own floor. With the one game at a time at approach, the Terps can look at the task at hand before getting to a potential rematch with UConn on March 27.
To say it’s tough to be in the Huskies’ region would be an understatement. It’s like being one of the best swimmers in the world, but competing in the same events as Katie Ledecky. For the past five years, Geno Auriemma’s team has been destroying the field.
“I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Confroy said. “We’re just going to keep moving forward and trying to be the best we can be and hope that all our hard work will get us where want to be.”