(Associated Press)

When the fourth-seeded Maryland women’s basketball team learned Monday night it had drawn Quinnipiac in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Coach Brenda Frese soon began reviewing game film of the No. 13 seed from Hamden, Conn., and what she uncovered was a disciplined opponent that substitutes in waves.

“They’re very well coached. They shoot the three extremely well. Don’t turn the ball over a lot,” Frese said.

Among the hottest teams in the country, the Bobcats (30-2) are making their NCAA tournament debut as champions of the Northeast Conference. Quinnipiac has won 22 consecutive games, including 72-33 over St. Francis (Pa.) in Sunday’s Northeast Conference tournament final, and has not lost this calendar year.

The last time the Bobcats lost was Dec. 29 to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and the winning streak certainly caught the attention of Frese and her players.

“I don’t think this team would be where we are by taking teams lightly,” Frese said. “If you take a team lightly, you’re going home.”

Unlike Maryland, which has played with a limited rotation for virtually the entire season, Quinnipiac has nine players who average double-figure minutes and three more who play eight minutes per game. No player averages more than 27.1 minutes.

Senior guard Felicia Barron leads Quinnipiac in scoring (13.4) and is the two-time reigning NEC defensive player of the year. She also averaged 3.5 steals, 2.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds. Barron is seventh nationally in steals after leading the country in that category last season.

“This is the next step for this program and for this team,” said Bobcats Coach Tricia Fabbri, who is in her 18th season. “This stage is not going to be too big for us. We’re ready for it. The program is ready for it. These young ladies are ready for it, having seen St. John’s this year, Minnesota last year. This is the next step for our program with this historic moment of being included in the NCAA tournament, and then to see a tremendous program like Maryland, this is where we should be right now, at this time and place.”

MORE ON NCAA TOURNAMENT: Check out my story on Maryland’s Tianna Hawkins, and her remarkable transformation.