After missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years, the 16th-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team is back, this time as a No. 4 seed on its home court and with the intriguing prospect of playing neighboring Georgetown in the second round.
Making their second straight tournament appearance, the No. 22 Hoyas drew the fifth seed in the College Park, where they will play 12th-seeded Princeton on Sunday afternoon. That game follows the Terrapins against No. 13 seed St. Francis (Pa.), scheduled to tip at 12:20 p.m.
“It means a lot for us to be back,” said Maryland Coach Brenda Frese, who watched Monday night’s selection show with players and supporters of the program at Comcast Center’s Heritage Hall. “Playing last year in the WNIT was a great experience for our young team, but there’s nothing better than being in the NCAA tournament.”
Both Maryland (23-7) and Georgetown (22-10) are in the East Region, where Connecticut is the top seed. The Huskies are the two-time defending national champions and have won seven NCAA titles overall, including five of the last nine. The other No. 1 seeds are Baylor, Stanford and Tennessee.
Navy was the only other area team that qualified for the NCAA tournament. The 14th-seeded Midshipmen (20-11) will play No. 3 seed DePaul in the first round in University Park, Pa., as part of the East Region. It’s the first berth in program history for Navy following an exhilarating 47-40 victory over American in the Patriot League final on Saturday.
Navy senior guard Angela Myers said she and her teammates were thrilled with Navy’s seed.
“I’m on cloud nine,” Myers said. “This is awesome. We didn’t know what we were going to get [for a seed]. It feels like we deserve it. It feels nice to be rewarded like this.”
Navy comes in playing its best defense of the season. The Midshipmen held their three opponents in the Patriot League tournament to 41 points or less. Myers leads the team in scoring (12.1 points per game), while senior center Cassie Consedine ranks second in the league in three-point field goals (69) and is tied for second in blocks (47).
Maryland, meantime, will be playing for the first time in more than two weeks. The Terrapins last played on March 4, when they lost to Georgia Tech, 70-64, in the ACC tournament quarterfinals in Greensboro, N.C.
The Terrapins are making their 19th appearance in the NCAA tournament, claiming the program’s only national title in 2006 in Frese’s fourth season. In eight seasons, Frese has directed Maryland to the round of eight three times and is 15-5 in six appearances.
“I’m excited, just excited because everybody worked so hard,” said junior center Lynetta Kizer, the team’s second-leading scorer. “It’s a little overwhelming for me. I don’t know if everybody else understands what this means.”
Kizer was alluding to Maryland’s youth. The Terrapins are one of seven teams in Division I without a senior, and only three players — Kizer, Kim Rodgers and Anjale Barrett — have been to the NCAA tournament.
Georgetown is making back-to-back trips to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. The Hoyas’ only other NCAA appearance before last year came in 1993.
Last year, Georgetown was sent to the West Coast and few of the Hoyas’ fans made the trip. Georgetown senior guard Monica McNutt, a Suitland native, was pleased that her family and friends won’t have far to travel to the game. She also saw it as a benefit for the team.
“Traveling is draining,” she said. “It’s great to be home. It saves energy.”
Georgetown plans to draw on its experience of being in last year’s tournament. The Hoyas beat No. 12 Marist before falling to No. 4 Baylor, a Final Four team.
“I think we know what to expect,” McNutt said. “You have to be mentally tough. You have to be prepared to bring your best.”
Georgetown beat Tennessee, 69-58, earlier this season, handing the top-seeded Lady Vols one of their two losses. But after their strong start, the Hoyas have struggled lately, losing five of their last seven games.
Should Maryland and Georgetown both win their first-round games, they would play for the second time this season. The Hoyas won the first meeting, 53-45, on Nov. 16 at McDonough Arena. Sugar Rodgers scored a game-high 21 points to lead Georgetown to its first victory over Maryland in school history.