Maryland’s women’s basketball team has been one game short of perfect this season. The Associated Press ranks the Terps No. 3 in the country. Yet the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Sport Committee ranked them as a 3rd seed for the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today.
The Terps currently sit atop the Big Ten with a 7-0 conference record and are 19-1 overall. Their only loss came against UConn, 87-81, who not only has dominated the field over the last decade, but is just six victories short of 100 straight wins. That streak is longer than any across the board, men’s or women’s basketball, which includes an 88-game winning streak by a UCLA during an era where they won seven straight championships from 1967-1973. UConn has been the most dominate team in history while outscoring their opponents by a 30-point margin every night this season, and Maryland lost by six.
Coach Brenda Frese hasn’t given too much thought to the projection, though.
“I don’t have (a reaction to the seeding). I think Shatori summed it up best in our locker room, that we were a 4-seed her freshman year and that worked out pretty well for us,” Frese said. “It’s never been about a midseason — any kind of seed or rankings, it’s never about the seed in postseason, it’s really about the bracket. So we’ll spend more time on that when March hits.”
Maryland’s RPI rating seems to be the only thing holding them back from being a No. 1 seed. RPI stands for Rating Percentage Index, which measures a team’s strength of schedule and how they perform against their opponents. Maryland currently stands at 17th, behind all eight teams that sit ahead of them on the tournament committee’s early rankings. The RPI is not kind to the Big Ten, whose next highest ranked team is No. 15 Ohio State (17-5, 7-1 in the Big Ten) at 30.
To be fair, of the teams ahead of Maryland, only UConn plays in a conference (AAC) with fewer RPI top-30 teams. Pac-12 teams like Washington and Oregon St., who are both ahead of Maryland, are ranked much higher than Maryland because the Pac-12 has five teams ranked in the AP poll, second most of any conference (ACC has six).
At the same time, Maryland has been a top-10 team all year, and a top-five team for most of the season. They also have wins against No. 7 Louisville and No. 23 Arizona State (AP ranking at the time of the game). Based on their dominance and national ranking, they should not be any lower than a two seed in the tournament.
Despite their one-loss season, Brenda Freese is not satisfied with the team’s performance, and knows that there is room for improvement. Their only ranked opponent the rest of the season is Ohio State, where they will face the only Big Ten opponent to beat them last season. They will travel to Columbus on February 20th for their biggest game remaining of the regular season.