- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Toward the end of the women’s NCAA tournament selection show, one of Maryland coach Brenda Frese’s infant sons let out a brief cry after remaining silent for nearly an hour.

It was about the only thing anyone associated with the Terrapins possibly could complain about last night.

Maryland was granted its first No. 1 seed since 1989, a validation of a tough nonconference schedule and an impressive performance in a season filled with unusual circumstances.

The Terps will meet 16th-seeded Coppin State (22-11) on Sunday at Comcast Center, where Maryland will play its first two rounds.

There is a minor upshot; the Terps (30-3) are anchoring the Spokane (Wash.) bracket. But that was a small detail for a team craving the respect accorded to a No. 1 seed.

“This team was so disappointed after our last game [an ACC tournament loss to Duke], I think this really gives us a shot of adrenaline and a vote of confidence, to show this team just what they were able to accomplish over the course of the season and prepare us for what’s ahead,” Frese said.

Several other area teams were selected for the Greensboro bracket. George Washington (25-6) earned a No. 6 seed and will play Auburn in Stanford, Calif., on Saturday. It is the sixth straight NCAA berth for the Colonials.

Virginia (23-9) is the No. 4 seed in the Greensboro bracket and will meet UC Santa Barbara on Sunday in Norfolk, Va. With a victory, the Cavaliers would play either fifth-seeded Old Dominion (29-4) or 12th-seeded Liberty (28-3).

Connecticut, the tournament’s overall top seed, North Carolina and Tennessee were the other No. 1 seeds in the field.

But Maryland was the mild surprise on the No. 1 line, besting LSU and Stanford, the latter of which drew the No. 2 seed in the Spokane bracket.

“It’s really exciting,” junior guard Kristi Toliver said. “I don’t think we were really expecting it, but to get that No. 1 seed is really exciting.”

The Terps’ guarded approach might stem from their placement as a No. 2 seed in both of the last two years. Maryland won the national championship in 2006 by plowing through a western regional and retains the bulk of that team. Last year, the Terps lost in the second round.

The Terps also played most of their road games without Frese, whose travel was restricted before she gave birth in February. But the Terps navigated the nation’s ninth-ranked schedule with a 12-3 record against the top 50 in the RPI and a 21-3 mark against the top 100 to cement a No. 1 seed.

“I was being paranoid all day,” junior guard Marissa Coleman said. “I didn’t even know if we were going to get that top-two seed, but it’s very surprising to be the 1-seed and I’m happy with it at the same time.”

So were the rest of her teammates, who congregated at Frese’s Laurel home and roared for the ESPN cameras when the No. 1 seed was unveiled.

Both Coleman and Toliver held one of Frese’s twins throughout the hour-long show. Frese was interviewed late in the show and giggled when one of her sons cried out during a question.

In the past, Frese eagerly played the respect card when the Terps were bumped out of a No. 1 seed. It seemed like an unlikely tack this year, but ESPN analyst Kara Lawson made it possible when she questioned Maryland’s credentials vis-a-vis some other teams.

“The committee thought we were a 1-seed, but nobody else did,” Coleman said. “You heard Trey [Wingo], Stacey [Dales] and Kara talking about it. Obviously, we’re still not considered one of the top four teams in the country even after all that, so we still have a lot to prove.”

For now, though, the Terps are a 1. In another three weeks, Maryland hopes it is the 1.

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