A pair of number one seeds see path to Final Four
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Brenda Frese, Maryland’s head coach, took a deep breath, and then took stock of the process that led to her Terrapins winning 17 straight games and cruising to a number one seed in this season’s NCAA Tournament.
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““We’re excited to get started,” Frese told High Post Hoops, after looking at the bracket. “This team is hungry. They’ve really grown as the season has unfolded. You hope for that as a coach, but you can’t always script it. What’s exciting is we know we still have room to keep getting better. As far as the seed, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the number in front of our name or our opponent’s name. That’s all out of my control. We just try to be the best we can be. I’ll take the one seed as a compliment to our team and it’s body of work. Looking at the three other teams here in College Park, we’ve got a lot of the country covered. An ACC team, a Midwest team and a west coast surprise.”
Maryland will face the surprise Cal Poly, a 16 seed that surprised with a run in the Big West Conference tournament. The winner of that game will face the 8/9 game between Drake and Virginia Tech, respectively.
But for Frese, that round isn’t yet on her radar, not with Cal Poly still to beat.
“If you win the Big West Tournament, you’re a pretty good team,” Frese said. “On film, they look like a team that limits their opponent’s scoring. They have three players averaging double figures for them. Ellis is an impressive freshman from Australia. She put up 30 for them in a recent game and that always grabs your attention. In the post they have Sierra Campisano, who has good size and averages close to 17 points per game. She was highly recruited out of high school and played at Oregon. That’s what happens a lot of times with teams like this — they have a high quality player that elevates the whole group. Coach Mimnaugh has been there 23 years, so you know she’s been successful.”
Frese said it was important to set the tone early to avoid “Cinderella making an appearance in College Park”. But she sounded like a coach who knows her team is ready for the task at hand.
“The biggest thing I’m looking for in our first game is that we don’t need to do anything different from what we’ve done the previous 17 games,” Frese said. “We need to communicate on defense and be aggressive and confident on offense. We’ve got great senior leadership that’s been in this position before. I’m confident they will set the tone from the tip.”
As for Oregon, a team Vegas puts as the odds-on favorite to win it all, a first round game in Eugene against Seattle looms. Analyst Cindy Brunson doesn’t expect it to be much of a contest, however.
“No.1 seed Oregon, no issues ending Seattle’s NCAA run,” Brunson said. “Too much of the big 3; Hebard, Ionescu and Sabally made the Redhawks quickly forget their impressive WAC tourney run. At least it’s a short bus ride back to campus, 4 and a half hours north on Interstate 5 from Eugene.”
The winner of Oregon-Seattle faces Arkansas-Michigan, previewed by Ben Rosof here.
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