- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Maryland women’s basketball team probably wasn’t lacking motivation going into the postseason.

The NCAA tournament selection committee gave the Terrapins some anyway.

Maryland (28-4), which entered Selection Monday with dreams of a top seed, instead was dealt a No. 2 in the tournament’s Albuquerque bracket and will meet 15th-seeded Sacred Heart (26-4) in Sunday’s first round in University Park, Pa.

North Carolina, Duke, LSU and — in a bit of a surprise — Ohio State were the No. 1 seeds. Tennessee, Connecticut and Oklahoma were the other No. 2 seeds.

“I’m really surprised they slighted Tennessee. I’m not surprised they slighted us,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said last night at Comcast Center. “That’s kind of been [like that] all season long. We’re used to that. It’s great motivation for us. I always love when the media does that. They did it down at the ACC tournament, and this is no different.”

Elsewhere locally, George Washington (22-8) earned the No. 7 seed in the Cleveland bracket and will meet Old Dominion on Sunday in Norfolk. Virginia Tech (20-9) is also a No. 7 seed and will face Missouri in University Park in the Bridgeport bracket.

The ACC and Big East both earned seven tournament berths, while the Pac-10 and SEC both have six teams in the field. Western Kentucky, which had an RPI of 17, was the only team in the top 38 of the RPI to miss the field.

The Terps are the only team in the nation to defeat two of the No. 1 seeds (Duke and North Carolina), and their only losses came against Duke (twice), North Carolina and Tennessee. However, the committee opted to reward the Big Ten champion Buckeyes (28-2).

Ohio State has not lost since New Year’s Day and possesses a superior nonconference RPI (7) to Maryland (24), according to collegerpi.com.

“It was very, very close,” said American athletic director Joni Comstock, the chair of the selection committee. “Maryland was one of the teams the committee looked at very carefully in terms of consideration for a No. 1 seed. In our final judgment, two of the things that worked against Maryland were the four losses, and they did not bring quite the strength of schedule as some other teams — obviously in the nonconference, the games they can control.”

Throughout the selection show, Terps players and fans cheered every time a Maryland highlight was shown or the team was mentioned. A large roar went up when Tennessee — considered the Terps’ likely competition for a No. 1 seed — was slotted as the No. 2 seed in the Cleveland bracket.

However, the Terps’ optimism was dashed when Ohio State went up as the top seed in the Albuquerque bracket. Maryland was unveiled in the final pairing of the night.

“Obviously we felt like we warranted a 1 seed, but it doesn’t matter to us,” Frese said. “With Ohio State in the same bracket, it’s a great bracket. [It’s a] tremendous matchup if Ohio State gets that far.”

Joining Maryland in the bottom half of the Albuquerque regional is third-seeded Baylor (24-6), the defending national champs. Looming in a possible regional final is Ohio State, which defeated the Terps in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament.

Maryland, a No. 7 seed last year, absorbed that 75-65 loss without current freshmen stars Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver, as well as then-injured forward Laura Harper.

“Sacred Heart’s our game coming up, and we know every game is going to be tough since everybody is trying to win an NCAA [title],” sophomore center Crystal Langhorne said. “But it would be great to play Ohio State again. We need to win games, and they need to win games to play. Everybody figures they beat us last year to knock us out, so we’ll be ready.”

Sacred Heart, the Northeast Conference champions, has won 10 straight to earn its first NCAA tournament bid. The Pioneers, though, must face a team all too eager to prove it deserved better treatment than it received from the selection committee.

“There’s no better motivation than wanting to win a championship,” junior guard Shay Doron said. “We have a great opportunity.”

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