Maryland’s fifth-ranked women’s basketball team has its doubters. Chief among them? The commander-in-chief.
President Obama selected Louisville to upset Maryland in the second round of the NCAA tournament when he made his picks with ESPN’s Doris Burke. Coach Brenda Frese and the Terrapins will try to bust Barack’s bracket when they play Louisville at 7 p.m. at Comcast Center.
“I was actually thrilled because during the season when I’ve had different people tell me that picks are against us, we’ve won those games,” Frese said. “We’ve had to prove ourselves all season long. This isn’t any different.”
As if the President’s pick isn’t enough bulletin board material, the Terps have plenty from years past. Before Maryland can advance to face Texas A&M or Arkansas in Raleigh, N.C., next weekend, it will have to pay back a familiar opponent and a familiar face on the opposing sideline.
In 2009, Louisville, coached by Jeff Walz who was an assistant on Frese’s 2006 national championship team, upset Maryland in the Elite Eight to advance to the team’s first Final Four in school history.
“We know coach Walz extremely well, having been on this staff. I think from both of our ends, we know each other’s philosophies,” Frese said. “Heck, we even have some of the same play calls.”
Walz, who said he hasn’t spoken with Frese in about four years, downplayed the rematch from 2009 and his reunion with Maryland, saying the game is more about the players.
“I haven’t made a shot all year,” Walz said. “It’s not like I’m going to go out and score 30 tomorrow.”
The current Maryland players, led by ACC player of the year Alyssa Thomas, say they are more concerned with avoiding a repeat of last season’s 79-57 second-round loss to Georgetown at home. The defeat inspired Frese’s mantra all season: “Fight to Finish.”
“Last year, we didn’t protect our house,” Thomas said of the Georgetown game, which was just the third loss in sixteen NCAA tournament games at Comcast Center. “We got blown off our home court in front of our home fans. But I know this year there is a different focus. We just want to go out there and show people that this is a different team this year.”
The Terps say this is a new chapter in Maryland-Louisville. Only four players are active from the 2009 game (Louisville’s Becky Burke and Maryland’s Anjale Barrett, Lynetta Kizer and Kim Rodgers).
“That’s in the back of my mind right now,” Barrett said. “This is a new team. New team on both ends. Like coach said, it’s about Maryland-Louisville. We’re just happy to be playing in the next round. And we just want to get the win for ourselves and for our school.”
However, it’s difficult to say how much of that is truth and how much is, well, politics - like President Obama’s picks.
“He’s trying to win Kentucky. I think he picked Kentucky men, too,” Walz said. “He wants our state for sure. It’s a re-election year.”
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