Minutes after it was announced that fifth-ranked Maryland would play Navy in the first round of the NCAA women’s tournament, the Terps’ Tianna Hawkins was asked what she knew about the Midshipmen.
The second team All-ACC forward responded frankly: “Absolutely nothing.”
Well, Tianna, here’s what you need to know before the second-seeded Terps host the fifteenth seeded Midshipmen 11:15 a.m. Saturday at Comcast Center
Less than 40 minutes apart on US-50, Maryland (28-4) and Navy (18-13) have more in common than just proximity.
Both teams entered their respective conference tournaments last weekend as third seeds and came out hoisting trophies.
Sophomore forwards had career games to pace both teams. Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas scored a career-high 29 points to earn MVP honors in the ACC championship, while Navy’s Jade Geif had a career-high 22 points to earn the Patriot League tournament MVP.
Both teams are young. Navy has one senior on its roster. Maryland has one it its starting lineup (Anjale Barrett) and three total.
Both are also peaking at the right time. Maryland has won seven in a row and 10 of its last 11. Navy has been victorious in its past four games and in eight of its last 11.
“Things are really, really clicking,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “They began to click in the ACC tournament where we saw how hard it was going to be to play three games in three days. Just to come back and bring it all to practice and [we] haven’t skipped a beat yet.”
Despite the similarities, there are some big differences — that is, big in a basketball context. Maryland’s frontcourt has a considerable size advantage over the Midshipmen.
Navy’s starting forwards Geif and Audrey Bauer are both listed at 6-foot. Even though Navy ranks first in the Patriot League in rebounding margin (+3.5), those two will have their hands full, as more than half (7) of Maryland’s players are at least that tall.
Just one player (Barrett) in Maryland’s starting five is shorter than 6-foot. The size has helped Maryland place second in rebounding margin in the nation, grabbing an average of close to 15 more boards than opponents.
History is also working against the Midshipmen. Since the field expanded to 64 teams, number two seeds are a perfect 72-0 against 15 seeds. Add to that the fact that Maryland boasts one of the best home records in the country (138-28 all-time at Comcast Center).
“I think [the fans] are going to be fired up, especially coming off an ACC championship,” said 6-foot-4 senior forward Lynetta Kizer. “Our fans are some of the most loyal fans that I have ever, ever been a part of.”
The Maryland-Navy winner will play the winner of No. 7 seed Louisville vs. No. 10 Michigan State. The second round will be 7 p.m. Monday at Comcast Center; however, Frese isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I don’t think the number in front of your name guarantees anything,” Frese said. “For us, we’ve got to take one game at a time and the rest takes care of itself.”