(Image from The Washington Post)
There is a buzz in the air in College Park, as Saturday draws nearer. Maryland women’s basketball could be about to do something special.
The Terps were crowned ACC tournament champions on March 4 and have earned a number 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, both of which have caused the excitement surrounding the team to be sky high. Fans realize that if everything is chalk in the first three rounds, Maryland will be advancing to their first elite eight since 2009.
But of course, in March, nothing is ever all chalk.
First the Terps will have to take care of business against 15 seed Navy in the first round at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday in College Park, Md.
The Midshipmen are 18-13 and were 8-6 in the Patriot League. They, like the Terps, got into the Big Dance with an automatic bid, as they defeated Holy Cross in the Patriot League tournament championship game.
Maryland played two Patriot League teams during the regular season and embarrassed both of them. First they defeated the league’s regular season champ, American, 76-42 on Dec. 4. They then beat the league’s last place team, Lafayette, 84-36 on Dec. 28.
If the Terps can top Navy they will play the winner of 7 seed Louisville versus 10 seed Michigan State on Monday, March 19 in the second round.
Louisville finished the regular season ranked 19th in the nation in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls, but still fell to a number 7 seed. The Cardinals are 22-9 and were 10-6 in the Big East. They are battle tested after playing in a conference that produced two number 1 seeds in Connecticut and Notre Dame.
Louisville is also a team that broke Maryland’s heart not too long ago. They were a 3 seed in the 2009 NCAA tournament and defeated 1 seed Maryland 77-60 in the elite eight. That was the last game in the careers of Terp greats Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver and it shattered their dreams of winning another national championship together like they did as freshmen. Maryland can only hope they don’t fall to the lower seeded Cardinals again in this year’s tournament.
Michigan State is 20-11 and finished 11-5 in the Big Ten. They have defeated Big Ten tournament champion Purdue and beat Big Ten regular season champion Penn State twice.
The 3 seed in Maryland’s bracket is defending national champion Texas A&M. The Aggies finished the regular season ranked 22nd in the AP poll and 14th in the USA Today/ESPN poll. In one game this year, they only lost by 7 points to NCAA tournament favorite Baylor. However, the other two times they played the Bears they were blown out.
The 1 seed in the Terps’ bracket is Notre Dame. Maryland’s victory over Duke on Feb. 19, combined with their ACC tournament championship may have spared them landing in the same bracket as Baylor, who is undefeated. Nevertheless, Brenda Frese’s crew is still unproven against any of the 1 seeds. The Fighting Irish will present an extremely difficult challenge should the Terps meet them in the elite eight.
As far as winning the whole thing, Maryland would probably have to play and defeat Baylor in the championship game if they wanted to do that. It would likely take a herculean effort led by Alyssa Thomas to pull that off.
For now, Terrapins women’s basketball can simply enjoy this moment when they are the biggest show in town.