March 20, 2009
(AP) - Maryland may not know much about its first-round opponent in the NCAA tournament, but it knows the venue well enough to be loaded with confidence.
After earning the top seed in the Raleigh region, the Terrapins begin the quest for their second national in four years Sunday on their home court against 16th-seeded Dartmouth.
Maryland has enjoyed a phenomenal season, capturing its first ACC title since 1989 on the strength of a 28-4 record. That success earned the Terrapins not only a No. 1 seed, but also the privilege of playing on their home court for the first two rounds. They went a perfect 13-0 at the Comcast Center, winning those games by an average margin of 18.6 points.
Should the Terps beat the Big Green and either Villanova or Utah in Tuesday's second round, they might also have something of a home-court advantage in Raleigh - a manageable drive down Interstate 95 for their fans.
"I'm just thrilled about our bracket, our matchups," coach Brenda Frese said. "I love the fact that we were able to get and earn a 1-seed in Raleigh for our fans, so they can travel."
Maryland enters the tournament riding a 12-game winning streak, including a 92-89 overtime win March 8 over then-No. 8 Duke in the ACC title game. Seniors Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver, who were both freshmen on the 2006 national championship team, scored 28 and 24 points, respectively.
Toliver averaged a team-high 18.4 points and 5.0 assists this season, with Coleman averaging 17.7 points and 8.1 rebounds. The duo lends the Terps both veteran leadership and desire.
"We're very eager to get back to the Final Four," Coleman told the Terrapins' official Web site. "Our regular-season accomplishments got us in position to earn a No. 1 seed, but all we can do right now is focus on Dartmouth and getting a first-round win."
These teams have never faced each other and don't know each other very well - a fact Toliver is unafraid to admit.
"They're in the Ivy League, so I'm sure they're intelligent people," she said after the pairings were announced. "That's about all we know."
Maryland averaged 79.8 points, and exceeded 90 in each of its last two ACC tournament wins, but could face a challenge from Dartmouth's defense. The Big Green yield an average of just 55.1 points per game, and have not allowed 70 or more in any contest since before the New Year.
Despite scoring only 56.8 points per game, Dartmouth finished 18-10 and won 15 of its last 16 to capture its 17th Ivy League title - fourth in the last five years - and seventh NCAA tournament appearance.
"This is who we are," coach Chris Wielgus said. "We're not the greatest offensive team."
The Big Green are led on offense by Ivy League Player of the Year Brittney Smith, a sophomore forward who averages 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. Senior guard Koren Schram chipped in 12.1 points per contest this season, while 6-foot-2 center Darcy Rose added 9.1 points and 7.3 boards to earn second-team all-Ivy honors.