Maryland in the rare position of being the lower-seeded team against Stanford – CBS Baltimore

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) – For at least one game, Maryland coach Brenda Frese thinks the pressure has eased.

The fourth-seeded Terrapins face top-seeded Stanford on Friday night at Sweet 16. This is only the second time in the last seven NCAA Tournaments that Maryland has been placed this low. It was also the first time Terps had played a No. 1 seed since 2015, and that match – the loss to Connecticut – was in the Final Four when Maryland was also the top seed.

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So this scenario – a 4 acting as a 1 – is pretty rare for Frese.

“We are playing with house money. We’re going to go in there and play Maryland basketball,” she said. “We will not be intimidated. We played a lot of great teams in our schedule. Obviously, we’re playing against the defending national champions.”

The last time Maryland was seeded 4 was in 2014, and Terps actually beat top seed Tennessee on its way to the Finals. They’re hoping it repeats now and they have reason to think they’ve got a shot. Maryland appeared as healthy as all season, and in the second round, the Terrapins turned down Florida Gulf Coast’s upset bid in a match 89-65.

Maryland ended up looking like the 4th-placed team in the country at the start of the season – a team with talented, experienced players returning.

“A healthy Maryland is a scary Maryland, I think,” said Terrapins Angel Reese. “This is the team that everyone wants to see.”

Terps have played a consistent schedule with a highly-anticipated team earlier this season, but they are not at full strength. Standout guard Diamond Miller dealt with knee problems, and both she and guard Katie Benzan had to go out as Maryland lost to Stanford 86-68 at an event in the Bahamas in November. Terps also lost to NC State two days earlier.

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In December, Maryland showed part of its potential against tough South Carolina in a 66-59 loss on the road, but the season has never been so easy for the Terps. They ultimately lost their Big Ten Tournament opening game to Indiana and barely received a seed high enough to host the first two rounds of the NCAA.

However, they appear refreshed after a two-week break and route both Delaware and FGCU.

“We finally see this team, finally coming together in March, with everyone healthy,” Frese said. “Just had time to practice together – it was the most we’ve had all season. Just peak at the right time. ”

Frese is looking to the past for inspiration. In 2006, when Maryland won the national championship, it had to beat defending champion Baylor at Sweet 16. This year’s mission was similar.

Since 2015, the Terps have only been the lower-seeded team once in 19 games in the NCAA Tournament. That was in 2018, when fifth-seeded Maryland lost in the second round to fourth-seeded NC State.

Stanford has been a formidable competitor this time around, but for now, at least, Terps has a sense of just how high their own ceiling can be — and confident they can eventually reach it.

“We played three of the No 1 seeds, including Stanford in pre-season, where we were a different team,” Frese said. “We have all kinds of confidence now, just going through a lot of things, learning some really great lessons.”

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Jake Nichol

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