- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

After winning the ACC’s regular-season and tournament titles, Maryland coach Brenda Frese could safely assume her Terrapins would earn a No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament. But suspense remained in her mind as to where the Terps would play.

Frese got the news she was hoping for Monday night when the Terps earned the top seed in the Raleigh Region and the opportunity to host first- and second-round games at Comcast Center.

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“It’s the best-case scenario,” Frese said. “We’re playing at home, and if we can take care of that, I love the fact that we can travel to a location where the best fans in the country can follow this team.”

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That means the Terps’ road to the Final Four in St. Louis won’t cover nearly as many miles as it did last year. As a top seed in 2008, Maryland had to trek to Spokane, Wash., after winning its first two games in College Park. The Terps lost in the regional final to second-seeded Stanford.

The Terps (28-4) host No. 16 seed Dartmouth, the Ivy League champion, at approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday. No. 8 seed Villanova or No. 9 seed Utah would await in next Tuesday’s second round; a 287-mile trip to Raleigh, N.C., would be on tap if the Terps win that game.

“I think it’s definitely to our advantage,” senior Marissa Coleman said. “Our great fan support will come out and support us for the first two games at Comcast and hopefully move on to Raleigh. It’s exciting; we play well in [North] Carolina.”

Maryland’s bracket is heavy with talent. Louisville was expected to be a No. 2 seed, but the Cardinals showed up as the No. 3 seed in the Raleigh Region. Second-seeded Baylor was in contention for a top seed after winning the Big 12 tournament Sunday.

But the Terps also have some familiarity with their potential opponents. They beat No. 4 seed Vanderbilt last season and both Utah and Baylor during their 2006 national championship run.

“There’s a lot of teams that we’re very familiar with,” Frese said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to stay very focused on what you’re doing. In every bracket out there, there could be a lot of upsets. We just have to be ready to play.”

Virginia earned a No. 5 seed in the Trenton Region. The Cavaliers face No. 12 seed Marist in Saturday’s opening round in Los Angeles.

Maryland won its final nine games of the regular season to vault to the top of the ACC standings. The top-seeded Terps then downed three North Carolina teams - Wake Forest, North Carolina and Duke - in Greensboro, N.C., to win their first ACC tournament since 1989.

The late-season surge was spurred by Coleman and Kristi Toliver, one of the most dangerous tandems in the country. Toliver was named ACC player of the year, and Coleman grabbed ACC tournament MVP.

The duo is now tasked with leading Maryland to its first Final Four since 2006, the year it won the national championship.

“I think the fact that Marissa and I played on the biggest stage of women’s college basketball and won it is a huge advantage,” Toliver said. “It’s definitely huge when you have players that have played and learned lessons from it.”

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