By Luke Gentile
One day after the Maryland men’s basketball team saw its season end with no invitation to the less-prestigious NIT Tournament, Maryland women’s basketball sat patiently inside the XFINITY Center, waiting to see who they would face in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
The Terrapins (25-7) received the No. 5 seed in the Kansas City, Missouri, regional and started the tournament against No. 12 Princeton (24-5).
The Terps started the tournament away from home for the first time since 2007, and a road victory was a great way for the team to make an early statement in the Big Dance.
Five of the last seven games the Terrapins played in the regular season were on the road, but three of those ended in losses. Still, the team’s overall record away was 10-4, so Maryland had confidence to carry into Raleigh.
The Tigers were coming off a massive Ivy League Tournament win over the University of Pennsylvania. Princeton defeated the Quakers 63-34 and finished league play with a record of 12-2. But the Tigers proved to be no match for Maryland, as the Terps prevailed 77-57.
Princeton had multiple slip ups this year, including a 20-point loss to Rutgers, who the Terrapins have beaten twice.
Records aside, this is March — and all that really matters is who shows come tournament time. It doesn’t matter what the stats sheet say or what the commentators predict; when it is time for tip off, what the tournament comes down to is who wants it more.
For senior guards Ieshia Small and Kristen Confroy, this tournament is their last chance to win it all. The Terps have the team to go all the way this year, having defeated Princeton they will face No. 4 North Carolina State. The winner of that match will likely take on top-seeded Mississippi State.
“No one said this is going to be easy,” said freshman Government and politics major Mike Duffy, an avid follower of Maryland athletics. “But, the girls have proven time and time again that they can compete. They’ve managed to pull off some close wins, like the games against Nebraska and Virginia.”
The last two tournaments didn’t go as planned. In 2016, the Terps lost at home to Washington, and last year they were knocked out of the Sweet Sixteen by Oregon.
The start of the tournament presents an opportunity to set the record straight. Earlier this season head coach Brenda Frese said, “Our mission is to be prepared for March.”
Maryland overcame Princeton in its opening matchup. But the Terps will have to progress further to change the narrative for a program that has not won the NCAA since 2006.