Last three NCAA tourneys won by No. 2 seeds
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- For the second straight season, Maryland will start the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed.
The Terrapins hope a comparable start will lead to an identical finish.
The defending champions will begin play Sunday in Hartford, Conn., against Harvard (15-12) in the stacked Dayton Regional, which has Tennessee as the top seed, Oklahoma No. 3 and Ohio State No. 4.
Maryland (27-5) is coming off a loss to North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, which is precisely what happened last year before the Terrapins peeled off six straight wins to win the school's first national championship.
Can it happen again? The Terrapins are counting on it.
"Twice would be nice," coach Brenda Frese said. "We understand how difficult it is, but I'm confident and I believe in this team."
All five starters from last season's team are back for another run. Guard Kristi Toliver knows Maryland's success last March won't necessarily equate to another championship, but she believes the Terrapins will benefit from the experience.
"Last year is last year. That's kind of how we're approaching it," she said. "But this year we're coming in with way more confidence than we had last year. And we've got the talent to do it again."
The Terrapins are in arguably the toughest region of the four.
"I think they're all tough. It doesn't matter what your number is or your seeding, you've got to come out and play," Frese said.
The first two games, however, are stacked heavily in Maryland's favor. Assuming the Terrapins dispose of No. 15 seed Harvard, Maryland will next face the winner of the TCU-Mississippi game.
In November, Maryland beat TCU by 18 and routed Mississippi 110-79.
"There's a comfort level there," Frese said.
Maryland spent much of the first part of the season ranked No. 1. The Terrapins won 18 straight before losing to Duke in January, then won three in a row before falling to North Carolina and Georgia Tech.
Then came a loss to Duke on Feb. 18, and finally a second defeat against North Carolina in the ACC tournament. The five losses are one more than the Terrapins had last season, but none of that will matter on Sunday against Harvard.
"I think we got too comfortable in the second half. I think you're going to see a different team," Toliver said.
And why not? A year ago, Maryland lost twice to Duke and once to North Carolina before beating both in the Final Four.
"This season is kind of looking like last year," senior guard Shay Doron said. "We went through a lull last year, won some games on a couple of lucky shots. This season is kind of looking the same; our bracket is tough but I think we have a good chance of winning."
Baylor won the tournament as a No. 2 seed in 2005 and Maryland did it last year. The Terrapins hope to keep that streak going in 2007.
"Honestly, we're happy where we're at," Doron said. "Two seeds won it the last two years, so we're looking to continue that streak."
Actually, the Terps are looking to make it four in a row. Connecticut won as a No. 2 seed in 2004.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press