Nearing March on the margins of the NCAA Tournament picture is not typical for Maryland women’s basketball.
The Terps have missed the tournament one time in the last 20 years, and the last time the Terps were seeded below No. 7 was 2004.
Tuesday’s win over Rutgers moved Maryland to 5-7 in the Big Ten. But to make the tournament, Brenda Frese’s team will need more impressive wins.
“There’s no doubt that we’re an NCAA tournament team,” Frese said after Maryland’s loss to Iowa.
The Terps were slotted in at No. 11, playing in the First Four, in NBC Sports’ latest projection. ESPN was not as favorable, ranking Maryland as one of the first teams out in its latest bracketology update. Some of Maryland’s struggles this season can be attributed to the improvement of the conference. Seven Big Ten teams are projected to make the tournament. Another, Minnesota, was also just outside ESPN’s projection.
Maryland’s combined record against those seven teams this season is 1-6. Its only win came on the road against the Golden Gophers. The Terps also beat George Mason, another program contending for a bid.
High-quality wins are a glaring hole on the Terps’ resume. Maryland is 2-10 against teams in ESPN’s projected field. Its sole wins came against Green Bay and Syracuse in November.
Maryland’s losses to ranked opponents have come by an average of 20 points. But some of those teams have pointed out they believe the Terps’ talent doesn’t align with their record.
“Maryland’s record doesn’t show how good Maryland is,” Caitlin Clark said.
Frese’s squad will soon have opportunities to obtain resume-boosting victories. In the next month, Maryland will play Penn State at home, at Ohio State and at Indiana — all likely tournament teams. Games against bottom-tier Big Ten opponents such as Illinois and Wisconsin are also chances to improve the Terps’ poor conference record.
Maryland’s current standing in the Big Ten hurts its tournament chances. In the past five years, one Big Ten team has made the tournament with a sub .500 conference record. That was Indiana, which made it as a No. 10 seed in 2019 with an 8-10 conference record.
Nine wins would improve the Terps’ chances greatly. Multiple Big Ten teams with nine conference wins have made the tournament in the past, including Purdue as a No. 11 seed with a 9-8 record in Big Ten play last season.
That is Maryland’s most likely path to a tournament appearance. If the Terps win the rest of their games versus non-ranked opponents, they would finish the year with a 9-9 conference record.The Big Ten tournament is another chance to boost their odds.
Last season, like many before, Selection Sunday was a chance for Maryland to celebrate a successful season. The Terps awaited the first-round opponent they would play and the region they would land in, but there was no worry of missing the tournament altogether.
In 2024, the day will likely be one with more anticipation. Maryland will see if its tournament streak extends another year, or if it will be left at home for just the third time in Frese’s tenure.