The Women’s NCAA Tournament field and bracket will be released Monday, but every major conference tournament is already complete. That gap leaves plenty of time to discuss how the top seeds will shake out, and where Maryland fits into that picture.
The Terps took care of business at the Big Ten Tournament, beating Minnesota, Michigan State and Purdue to take the crown. It was about as easy a road as they could have faced, as top-seeded Ohio State and No. 3-seed Michigan lost before the teams could meet up. Beating either of those squads—especially the Buckeyes, who beat Maryland on Feb. 20—would have given the Terps another “quality win.” However, while they didn’t get to bolster their resume too much, winning conference championships never hurt anybody.
For the most part, the other conference tournaments played out as expected. Notre Dame won the ACC for the fourth year in a row, South Carolina edged out Mississippi State in the SEC title game, and UConn essentially took the entire American conference’s lunch money. However, Maryland got some help from West Virginia, who knocked off both Texas and Baylor to win the Big 12 tournament, and Stanford, who beat Oregon State for the Pac-12 championship.
Maryland’s projected seeding has been noticeably lower than its ranking in the major polls ever since the selection committee’s rankings first came out. The Terps were No. 9 in the first two reveals and No. 7 in the most recent one. They’ve fallen at Ohio State and won the conference tournament since then, though, so it doesn’t make too much since to go off those rankings.
The committee looks at resumes, and even though Maryland is 30-2, the Terps’ resume simply doesn’t stack up with Notre Dame and South Carolina, who finished with similar records against tougher schedules. Baylor losing in the Big 12 final probably isn’t enough to drop the Lady Bears out of a 1-seed, and UConn is 32-0 with wins over every other team mentioned in this paragraph.
That leaves Maryland behind those four, and closer to teams like like Texas, Mississippi State and Oregon State. All of those squads would have had a clearly better case had they won their conference tournaments, but could still edge out the Terps. Stanford’s Pac-12 title should move the Cardinal onto the 2-line, probably just ahead of Texas.
In ESPN’s Charlie Creme’s projected bracket from Tuesday (which doesn’t figure to change much at the top over the course of the week), he has Maryland as the No. 7 overall seed, or the third-best best No. 2 behind Mississippi State and Oregon State. Here’s the projected bracket, which is far from official but is worth considering:
This particular draw would be quite something. Tennessee made the Elite Eight as a 7-seed last year and has taken down South Carolina and Notre Dame this year. Washington and Syracuse met in the Final Four last year, with the Huskies taking down, well, Maryland on their way there. A potential regional final against Notre Dame or Kentucky in Rupp Arena isn’t too appetizing, although the Terps figure to match up well with either of those teams. Of course, Maryland’s path won’t have exactly all these teams in it, but Brenda Frese’s team might have to deal with a few.
If they get through that, then we’re looking at a Final Four berth on the other side of UConn’s game. It’s worth noting that Geno Auriemma’s teams are 11-6 in national semifinals and 11-0 in championship games, but the Huskies will always be a monumental hurdle to clear. Maryland certainly wouldn’t want to have to face them any earlier, especially with that game certain to take place in Bridgeport, which is about an hour from UConn’s campus.
The good news, then, is that by winning the Big Ten Tournament while several of their contemporaries lost, the Terps are all but assured of a top-7 seed. Their tournament result will ultimately define this season in comparison to others, but they’ve put themselves in a good position to make a nice run.
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story misinterpreted the layout of Creme’s bracket, concluding that he had Maryland at No. 5 overall and in line to play UConn in the Final Four. They could still end up there, but that isn’t what Creme is projecting.