Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese and her players could not hide their disappointment when the Terrapins were named a No. 3 seed for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Meanwhile, Maryland’s opponent, Bucknell, is elated to play on the big stage and compete against one of the most powerful programs in the nation. The teams will meet in the first round Friday, March 17, at noon in College Park, Md., where the Terrapins went 14-1 this season.
“They’re very, very talented,” Bucknell coach Aaron Roussell said about Maryland. “They have some WNBA players on their roster. They’ve got a couple seniors who are potential All-Americans. I am absolutely shocked that they’re a three seed, but there’s a lot of good teams out there.”
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Maryland went 30-2, shared the Big Ten regular season title with Ohio State and won tournament championship. The Terrapins only losses were to top-ranked Connecticut and the Buckeyes.
Nonetheless, Maryland did not get one of the four top seeds and was placed in the Bridgeport region with the Huskies, who are riding a 107-game winning streak.
“It’s disappointing because we felt like we controlled our destiny, and what we did was win,” Frese said, “And so to go 30-2, to be ranked top four in the country, I’m not sure I’ve seen from the men’s or the women’s side a team ranked top four in the country and receive a 3-seed.”
Despite that perceived lack of respect, Maryland is one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament. The Terrapins have the top scoring offense in nation, averaging 89.9 points per game.
Maryland is led by center Brionna Jones, a 6-3 senior center averaging 19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough has also been solid with 18.6 points. Freshman Destiny Slocum controls the backcourt and led the team with 186 assists.
“It’s just a number,” Slocum said about the team’s seeding. “We’re still the same Maryland team no matter what number is in front of it.”
Bucknell received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after winning both the Patriot League regular season and tournament titles. The Bison went 27-5, setting a program record for wins in a season.
Bucknell is making its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament and carrying some momentum with a 10-game winning streak. Senior Claire DeBoer, who averaged 16.3 points per game, was the Patriot League Player of the Year and Tournament MVP.
The winner between Bucknell and Maryland will play either sixth-seeded West Virginia or 11th-seeded Elon. The Bison know they have to play their best game against Maryland to advance.
“They’re really tough competitors,” DeBoer said about Maryland. “They actually almost beat UConn, so they’ll be a really tough test for us. It will be really fun to play in that kind of atmosphere.”