Brenda Frese’s team went into Monday night’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show with a 30-2 overall record and a Big Ten Tournament title on its resume—a resume they thought deserved a No. 2 seed at the very least.
The selection committee saw it differently.
The Terps were given a No. 3 seed in the Bridgeport region and will match up with 14th-seeded Bucknell in Friday’s first-round game at the Xfinity Center.
Maryland’s low seeding can presumably be contributed to its low RPI ranking. After playing a fairly weak schedule that wasn’t helped by a down year for the Big Ten, the Terps had the 16th-ranked RPI, even though they finished No. 4 in the final AP Poll.
“I understand the non-conference component, but it’s never been weighted 100 percent,” Frese said. “We had no bad losses. We had 30 wins. We won the [Big Ten] regular season and the tournament.”
Not only did the Terrapins not get a top-two seed, but they were also placed in the same region as No. 1 overall seed UConn. The Huskies, who defeated Maryland 87-81 in College Park back on Dec. 29, enter the tournament with a perfect 32-0 record this season and 107-game winning streak dating back to 2014.
The No. 2 seed in the region is former ACC rival Duke, a team that finished 27-5 this season, and did not win its regular season conference or tournament title. The difficulty of the region continues with the fourth-seeded UCLA Bruins, who won 13 games in a tough Pac-12 conference, and the fifth-seeded Texas A&M Aggies, who won the NCAA title just six years ago.
“It’s a very difficult bracket,” Frese said. “You’re not going to sugarcoat what it is, but we found that last year with Washington. We want to be ready to play. If you play your best basketball, you’re going to advance.”
Even with blue-blood opponents lurking, the Terps will not be able to look past the the first weekend. If they can get by Bucknell, Maryland could match up with No. 6 seed West Virginia in the second round. The Mountaineers are coming off a Big 12 tournament title run that included wins over Texas and Baylor, No. 3 and No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, respectively.
“I think you have to play the best [teams] to win,” Brionna Jones said. “We get the opportunity to play against the best and we’re ready for the challenge.”
As a top-four seed, the Terps will get to play the first two rounds of the tournament in the Xfinity Center, which is a big boost for a team that went 14-1 at home this season, with its only loss coming to UConn.
“That what’s you work so hard for during the season, you earn the right to host,” Frese said. “For our fans to be able to come out and support us right here in Xfinity Center and hope for two home games, it’s a tremendous opportunity for us that we don’t take for granted.”
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