Even in the season like none other, the Maryland Women’s Basketball Team finds itself in a familiar place. The Terps are a No. 2 seed for the third time in 10 years.
The Big Ten regular season and tournament champions boast a 24-2 mark and have won 13 straight. And unlike last year’s edition that was built on defense (ranking 29th in scoring defense) and rebounding (16th best rebounding margin), this year’s team is outscoring foes: their 91 points per game led all of Division I.
These Terps are built around a strong perimeter: Sophomore guard Ashley Owusu was voted Third Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten, senior Katie Benzan took Honorable Mention All-America after leading the nation in three-point shooting (50.7% from outside the arc), and Diamond Miller was voted First Team All-Big Ten. But two difference makers of late have been forwards Chloe Bibby and Mimi Collins.
Collins sat out last winter after transferring from Tennessee and has hit her stride lately, averaging 14 points while shooting 62% from the field in her last seven games.
“She’s playing some of her best basketball. She’s making the right plays at the right time. Just seeing her round into form for that consistency factor that we needed on both ends of the floor: her toughness, her rebounding,” Coach Brenda Frese said.
Collins is one of three transfers who have made an impact on this year’s roster: Chloe Bibby (Mississippi State) is a three-point threat that can also rebound, while Alaysia Styles (Cal) is a defensive difference-maker off the bench.
As they near the tournament, the team’s mindset is locked in.
“I think for us, it’s ‘business as usual’. We’re not going to go in and try and play outside of ourselves or do anything different, because what we’ve been doing throughout the whole season has been working,” Bibby said. “No one is super nervous. We’re all just excited to go out there and play.”
The Terps begin with Mount St. Mary’s Monday at 4 p.m. The Mountaineers beat Wagner 70-38 to take the Northeast Conference Tournament Championship and are led by fifth year senior Kendall Bresee who paces the team with 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
While the program under Coach Brenda Frese has never lost a First Round game as a No. 2 seed, they have fallen twice in the Second Round: in 2007 to Ohio State, and in 2016 to Washington (the Huskies would reach the Final Four).
Alabama and North Carolina play the other First Round game in the Terps’ quadrant, and while the Tar Heels appear to be the hotter team (five wins in seven games) the Crimson Tide’s 1-3 finish includes three losses to ranked teams. No. 3 seed UCLA is the most likely Regional Semifinal foe, while No. 1 seed South Carolina is already laying waste to its side of the Region (beating Mercer 79-53 Sunday in their First Round game).