Maryland women deserved better, but it is what it is
By By Peter Schmuck
The Baltimore Sun|
Mar 17, 2017 | 4:28 PM
|COLLEGE PARK --
UMD women's basketball coach Brenda Frese, and some of the key players in Friday's rout of Bucknell, discuss the team's perfomance and expectations for the rest of the NCAA tournament. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)
There wasn't much doubt about what was going to happen on Friday afternoon at Xfinity Center. The Maryland women's basketball team figured to overwhelm 14th-seeded Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and did.
It's what happens after that ... and after that ... and, hopefully for Brenda Frese and her terrific team, right after that.
For the No. 4-ranked Terps, who were ridiculously seeded third in the same bracket as No. 1 Connecticut, the road to the Final Four is paved with little respect.
They should get through this weekend on their home court -- though they stumbled in the second round here last year -- but they almost certainly will get No. 9 Duke in the round of 16 and then undoubtedly have the seemingly unbeatable Huskies standing between them and the sport's biggest stage.
If Friday's 103-61 victory was any indication, they are certainly looking forward to the challenge, but you have to wonder why the selection committee set up the Bridgeport bracket so that two of the top four teams in the nation play in the round of eight.
In a perfect world, the top four teams at the end of the regular season and the conference tournaments should have a chance to meet each other in the Final Four, but the selection committee decided that having the second-best record (30-2) in Division I and being one of three teams to come within six points of beating UConn did not outweigh the questionable strength of their non-conference schedule.
"That's how it's supposed to be ... matched up right,'' Frese said after Friday's game, but she emphasized that the seeding isn't as important as the nature of each matchup.
"We found out last year with Washington and where they were seeded that it's really matchups and personnel and how different teams present,'' she said. "I think as a coach you know your strengths and weaknesses and when you watch film on a different team you can figure out what teams can give you problems and different things. I still think it comes down to different matchups that you play within your bracket."
Keep in mind that Frese was penalized for voluntarily putting the Terps in that position in order to play a bunch of local colleges for the good of the women's sport and the region.
Even former President Barack Obama bought into this flawed narrative, knocking the Terps out in the round of 16 on the women's bracket he made public. That Duke mystique apparently isn't just reserved for Coach K, though Obama also has the Duke men in the final game.
Shockingly, Obama picked the UConn women to go all the way. He didn't exactly play a longshot with the men's bracket either, picking No. 1 North Carolina.
To be fair, Obama actually showed too much confidence in the Terp men, picking them to defeat Xavier in the first round before losing to Florida State.
Of course, none of this matters to the Terp women, unless the goal is just to get to the Final Four, which is a nice consolation prize for anybody, but wasn't the goal that Frese and her team set for themselves this season.
Barring some incredible upsets, they're going to have to beat Duke and UConn to get where they want to go and it doesn't really matter when. But the selection committee whiffed on this one, giving No. 2 seeds to four teams that all entered the tournament ranked behind Maryland in the Associated Press poll and all had at least twice as many losses as the Terps.