COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Playing in the NCAA tournament for a second straight year, St. Francis (Pa.) has a distinct advantage over Maryland in terms of postseason experience.
Unfortunately for the Red Flash, the fourth-seeded Terrapins have an edge in almost every other category.
The list begins with home-court advantage: Maryland (23-7) will play in its on-campus arena Sunday against St. Francis (22-11), the Northeast Conference champion and 13th seed in the Philadelphia Regional.
The Terrapins don’t have a senior on the roster and missed the tournament last year, but they are extremely tall — and talented.
“Maryland is one of the biggest teams in the country, from top to bottom, and obviously very athletic,” St. Francis coach Susan Robinson Fruchtl said Saturday. “We hope our experience can help us, just in terms of this being our second year. But we’re going to have to rebound very well, we’re going to have to box out and take care of the basketball, and we’re going tohave to have a good shot selection. I think that’s going to becritical for success.”
The second game Sunday at Comcast Center matches No. 5 seed Georgetown (22-10) against Ivy League champion Princeton (24-4).
A year ago, St. Francis won the NEC title and entered the NCAA tournament as a 15th seed. The wide-eyed, just-happy-to-be-here Red Flash got off to a miserable start against Ohio State and lost 93-59.
“We were really excited just going into the tournament because none of us on that team had ever been,” St. Francis guard Allison Daley said. “That was a big shocker to all of us, getting prepared for something that was a dream for us.”
The Red Flash can only hope Maryland goes through a similar process.
Only three Terrapins have played in the NCAA tournament: guards Anjale Barrett and Kim Rodgers, and center Lynetta Kizer.
But Maryland won a national championship five years ago with a similarly youthful roster, so coach Brenda Frese is confident her underclassmen can perform with maturity over the next few weeks.
“Last time I remember when we had a really young team, it worked out well for us in 2006,” Frese said. “That has never been a factor. This young team has showed in their 23 wins this season that they are a special team. Age is just a number.”
The numbers that really count to Frese are these: The Terrapins have nine players over 6 feet tall and St. Francis has only three.
“Obviously we feel that we have great size and we want to utilize that strength, both on the inside as well as the outside,” Frese said.
The teams have two common opponents — Monmouth and Towson.
Maryland beat Monmouth 73-40 and hammered Towson 72-47; St. Francis lost both games.
Georgetown enters with four defeats in five games, but two of those setbacks came against top-ranked Connecticut.
“We played No. 25 St. John’s and we played No. 10 DePaul and we played the No. 1 team in the country twice,” coach Terri Williams said. “You look at it and say you didn’t finish off too well, but I think you also have to look at the opponents we played.”
A victory over Princeton would set up a potential second-round neighborhood brawl between Georgetown and Maryland, but the Hoyas know better than to look ahead.
“Really, we’re just mentally preparing for Princeton and not worrying about the next game,” junior forward Tia Magee said.
A year ago, the Hoyas went out west for their first-round game. This time, they hopped in a bus for a short drive from downtown Washington.
“Don’t get me wrong, California was nice, but the area, the location, isn’t really important right now,” Magee said. “It’s
all about basketball. It’s about winning.”
Only one Ivy League team has ever won a game in the NCAA tournament. In 1998, Harvard beat Stanford, which remains the only time a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed.
For Princeton, everything that happened in the past is essentially meaningless.
“History doesn’t mean much to this group,” Tigers coach Courtney Banghart said. “We’re here to win, and Princeton expects it.”
The Tigers enter with a 10-game winning streak and Georgetown has dropped five of seven, but Banghart found those numbers to be irrelevant.
“We’ll take whatever advantage we can get,” she said, “but I don’t know that momentum is one of them.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)