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Top seed for Terps

In the end, finding out they had received a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament was far easier for the Maryland women's basketball team than actually earning the seed itself.

With a crowd of local media and an ESPN crew assembled in coach Brenda Frese's family room last night, the drain on electrical power caused one of the circuits in the house to blow just a few minutes before their region was shown. And ESPN didn't help matters, either, by posting the Spokane region, where the Terps will play, last of the four regional brackets.

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But when the seeding was finally revealed, the team let out a whoop of excitement over the news that it had been recognized by the 10-member tournament committee as one of the top four teams in the draw, just eight days after it appeared the Terps had no chance at a No. 1 seed.

"We put on a great campaign for getting that one seed," said junior point guard Kristi Toliver, who held one of Frese's twin sons, Tyler, during the telecast. "It's well-deserved. We have three losses - against Rutgers away, a double overtime against North Carolina and then a hungry Duke team. We were deserving, and that was shown by the committee giving us a one seed.'

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The fifth-ranked Terps (30-3), who finished second behind North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season, were thought to be out of contention for a top seed after their loss to Duke in the ACC tournament semifinals. However, with losses by Rutgers and LSU in their respective conference tournaments, Maryland, ranked fifth in the most recent CollegeRPI.com standings, was able to slide into the fourth No. 1 slot, past Pacific-10 champion Stanford, which drew the No. 2 seed.

"The body of work for Maryland was so overwhelming," said Judy Southard, chair of the selection committee and an administrator at LSU, on ESPN's telecast.

Southard pointed to Maryland's strength of schedule, ranked eighth in the nation, which included a 13-3 record against teams in the tournament field, as well as the fact that Stanford suffered back-to-back losses to Southern California and UCLA, two teams ranked outside the Rating Percentage Index top 50.

"There were a lot of what-ifs there towards the end of the season the way we finished up," Frese said. "I'm ecstatic that they looked at the bulk of our season and what we were able to do. We played a challenging and one of the toughest schedules out there in the country. We played the 14 games in 31 days against so many ranked opponents."

The Terps received the second No. 1 seed in school history, the first since they received a top seed in the West Regional in Austin, Texas, in 1989. Coincidentally, that was the last time Maryland advanced to the Final Four before their win in Boston two years ago.

They will open play Sunday at Comcast Center against 16th-seeded Coppin State (22-11), with the winner advancing to next Tuesday's second-round game against the winner of the Nebraska-Xavier game, also played at Comcast on Sunday.

The Terps flamed out in the second round of last year's tournament, the earliest departure for a defending champion. Receiving the top seed seems to indicate their loss last year wasn't held against them and that they have a chance to prove their 2006 success wasn't a fluke.

"I said no [to a top seed] very emphatically after the Duke game," senior center Laura Harper said. "And now I say yes. I say, 'Yes, God.' He is definitely looking down on his children and blessing us. We are so happy about this. We'll definitely take it as motivation. They respect us. I'm shocked, honestly, but I'm ready to play basketball. We're going to play to prove that we deserve this seeding."

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milton.kent@baltsun.com



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