Brenda Frese got the ball rolling, and her players added a little push for even more momentum: The Maryland women's basketball team gotno respect from the NCAA selection committee.
The No. 3 Terps waited 41 minutes into ESPN's NCAA tournament selection show last night to find out that the committee had given them a No. 2 seed in the Albuquerque Regional.
Maryland (28-4) will meet 15th-seeded Sacred Heart (26-4) on Sunday, 30 minutes after the conclusion of the St. John's-California noon matchup at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa.
The Terps missed out on what would've been only the school's second No. 1 seed when the committee awarded the fourth and final top seed to Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion Ohio State (28-2).
The decision was booed by about 150 supporters who joined the players, coaches and administrators who crowded Heritage Hall at Comcast Center.
A few minutes later, Frese and the players joined in.
"I'm not surprised they slighted us," Frese said of the committee's move. "That's kind of been [happening] all season long. We're used to that. That's just great motivation for us."
Added junior guard Shay Doron: "Nobody thought we could beat Duke, nobody thought we could beat North Carolina. We've been proving people wrong a lot. We're going to try and do that again."
Maryland's resume included the eighth-highest Rating Percentage Index and 14th-toughest schedule according to collegerpi.com, an appearance in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final, and victories over No. 1 North Carolina and No. 4 Duke - both of which earned No. 1 seeds - and No. 16 Michigan State, the fourth seed in the Bridgeport region.
The Terps also defeated tournament teams in North Carolina State (the fifth seed in San Antonio), Florida State (sixth seed in San Antonio), Virginia Tech (seventh seed in Bridgeport) and Boston College (eighth seed in Albuquerque).
Ohio State, which is ranked second in the country, had mixed numbers. The Buckeyes boasted an RPI of seven, but their strength of schedule was 21st.
But Joni Comstock, the athletic director at American and chair of the selection committee, said the panel was swayed by the teams' nonconference RPI. Ohio State's was No. 7, while Maryland's was 24.
"In looking at Ohio State and Maryland, it was very, very close, and Maryland was one of the teams the committee looked at very carefully in terms of consideration for a No. 1 seed," Comstock said in a conference call after the bracket was announced. "In our final judgment, the two things that worked against Maryland were the four losses they had, and they didn't bring quite the strength of schedule as some other teams."
Still, the committee's decision raised some eyebrows. ESPN analyst Kara Lawson immediately questioned the Buckeyes' season during the selection show and later picked the Terps to make the Final Four in Boston on April 2.
"I think youth can be dangerous and inexperience can be dangerous," she said. "Maryland's a team that is filled with confident players and they believe they can win, and they have talent. I like the make-up of their team inside and outside."
If the Terps can get past a Sacred Heart team that won 10 straight but is making its first appearance in an NCAA tournament and either California or a St. John's squad that went 4-4 in its past eight games, Maryland could meet defending national champion and third-seeded Baylor (24-6) in the regional semifinal.
A win there, and the Terps could face Ohio State, which ousted Maryland from last year's tournament in the second round, before entertaining the thought of reaching the program's third Final Four.
It's a goal that freshman forward Marissa Coleman gave voice to last night.
"I expect the Final Four," she said. "I think we're already focused and having great practices leading up to the tournament. I definitely thinkMaryland's going to do some special things in the tournament."
Notes -- Crystal Langhorne (hyperextended knee) and Doron (bruised thigh) practiced yesterday and said they should be fine for Sunday's opening game. ... The No. 2 seed is the program's fifth and first since the 1992-93 season when that Terps squad was upset by Southwest Missouri State in the second round.