COLLEGE PARK — In nearly four years at Maryland, career scoring leader Alyssa Thomas has been on teams that have won one game, two games and three games in the NCAA tournament. But she's never claimed that elusive fourth victory.
On Monday night, her teammates learned the path they must navigate in their final bid to send Thomas to a Final Four.
Maryland (24-6) will be a No. 4 seed in their region and will open the tournament at Comcast Center on Sunday against 13th-seeded Army (25-7). The two teams have never met.
Army was a surprise winner of the Patriot League tournament and will be making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2006.
If the Terps advance, they will face the Penn-Texas winner at Comcast Center on March 25. Texas (21-11) is the fifth seed and Penn (22-6) is seeded 12th.
Maryland was also seeded fourth last season and was eliminated by top-seeded Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen. The Terps were knocked out the previous season by top-seed Notre Dame in the Elite Eight.
This season, Maryland managed to avoid a meeting with either currently undefeated heavyweight — Connecticut or Notre Dame — until at least the Final Four.
As a No. 4 seed, Maryland was guaranteed to play a top seed in the Sweet Sixteen. But Maryland's region — the Louisville region —is headed by Tennessee (27-5) at the top.
"Honestly I just didn't want to get stuck with playing UConn in the Sweet Sixteen," freshman guard Lexie Brown said. "Any other place but that would be a great draw. It looks great for us."
Maryland hasn't played Tennessee since a loss in the 2005-06 regular season. That was also the season that the Terps won the national championship after advancing to their last Final Four.
Another meeting with the Volunteers "would be tremendous," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "We would love to be able to have that opportunity."
A Maryland-Tennessee meeting would occur at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ken. The Final Four is in Nashville, Tenn.
Brown and her teammates gathered Monday night for what has become the team's March ritual — watching the tournament selection show on a big-screen TV with supporters in a Comcast Center meeting room overlooking the basketball court.
The Terps players wore black warmup pants and gold T-shirts with the team's season-long slogan: "We Will."
The shirts also contained a quote in red lettering designed especially for the postseason: "It's amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit."
Frese — who watched the selection show balancing twin boys Tyler and Markus on her lap — said the quote "kind of tied it all together in terms of being there for each other."
Frese and others said Maryland, which likes to use the word "family" to describe the program, feels a special urgency this season to send out Thomas and the four other seniors in the right way.
The Terps, who move to the Big Ten next season, were eliminated by North Carolina in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on March 7. That was a sour end to Maryland's ACC tenure.
The seniors "deserve [a long NCAA tournament run] even more because we didn't get to send them out of the ACC right," Brown said. "That was a heartbreaking loss for us. They haven't made it to a Final Four yet and this definitely is a team that can get them here."
There was mostly silence from the Terps as ESPN's selection program showed highlights of undefeated Connecticut, the top seed in the Lincoln, Neb., bracket.
The Terps applauded when their spot on the bracket was revealed. Thomas smiled shyly when one of the broadcasters referenced her achievements. This season, she joined Duke's Alana Beard in being named ACC player of the year three times.
"It's the last one," Thomas said. "This is our last chance at it. Every year it's about the seniors and sending them out."
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