Meantime in Annapolis, Navy found out it had drawn a No. 15 seed in the Bridgeport Region and will play second-seeded Kentucky on Sunday in Queens. The Midshipmen (21-11) are making their third straight NCAA tournament appearance after winning the Patriot League championship game for a third consecutive time by beating Holy Cross, 72-53, Saturday night at Alumni Hall.
Maryland (24-7) is scheduled to tip off Saturday morning at 11:15 against the 13th-seeded Bobcats (30-2), the Northeast Conference champions making their first NCAA tournament appearance. In the second game in College Park, fifth-seeded Michigan State, which lost to Louisville in the first round at Comcast Center last season, will play No. 12 seed Marist.
“Obviously it’s been a real special season, and it’s not over yet,” Frese said at a selection-show viewing party at Heritage Hall in Comcast Center. “Everything that this team has faced, to again be hosting and have the opportunity that we’re given in the big dance. Yeah, we’re real excited.”
Seven-time national champion Connecticut (29-4) is the top seed in the Bridgeport Region. The other top seeds are defending national champion Baylor (32-1) in Oklahoma City; Notre Dame (31-1) in Norfolk; and Stanford (31-2) in Spokane, Wash.
If Navy manages a first-round upset of the Wildcats (27-5), the Southeastern Conference tournament runners-up, it would play the winner of No. 7 Dayton against No. 10 St. John’s for the right to advance to the region semifinals.
“We knew that it would be tough,” Navy Coach Stefanie Pemper said of the Wildcats, who lost to Texas A&M in the SEC title game, 75-67. “I think it’s a lot like the Maryland matchup [in last season’s NCAA tournament]. They’re deep. They’re athletic. They’re tall. It’s kind of the golden age of Kentucky basketball.”
Navy lost to Maryland, 59-44, in last season’s first round at Comcast Center during the Terrapins’ run to the region final. Forced to come back time and again throughout the tournament’s early rounds, Maryland lost to top-seeded Notre Dame one game short of the Final Four, 80-49, in Raleigh, N.C.
That the Terrapins were able to secure a top-four seed this season is all the more notable given their misfortune with injuries. Sophomore Brene Moseley first was lost for the season in October with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The first-team All-Met as a junior at Paint Branch High School was in line to take over as the starting point guard.
A month later, starting shooting guard Laurin Mincy tore her ACL in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against then-No. 19 Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb. The junior, who was second on the team in scoring last season, required surgery and is out until next season.
Starting freshman forward Tierney Pfirman missed a month with a dislocated kneecap and currently is out indefinitely with mononucleosis. She most recently did not accompany the team to Greensboro, N.C., where the Terrapins lost to North Carolina, 72-65, in the ACC tournament semifinals.
“Just being able to play at home is an advantage,” said Alyssa Thomas, Maryland’s junior forward and two-time ACC player of the year who posted the first triple-double in ACC tournament history in a quarterfinal victory over Wake Forest. “We’re familiar with the rims, and just the atmosphere and being able to sleep in your own bed.”