Maryland women’s basketball has a chance to do something special


Faith Masonius paused, but didn’t take long to answer the question. She was standing on the floor of the Xfinity Center as a celebration took place around her. Maryland had just been announced as the No. 2 in the NCAA Tournament and the watch party was filled with smiles and laughter.

The scene was a little hard to imagine in August.

“Honestly, I don’t know if I would have believed you,” said Masonius, a senior. “Because with so many new girls coming in at this point, you never know what it’s going to be like. We have great basketball players individually, but how will it be? [with] we play together as a team?

“So I’m really excited that we’ve gotten to this point. We play great basketball offensively and defensively and just do what we have to do. We deserve that too.”

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Maryland lost its two top scorers and a top reserve to the transfer portal in a week in April. When the dust settled, the Terrapins were without five of their top six scorers. Exodus was headlined by Angel Reese, the highest-ranking recruit in program history, and Ashley Owusu. Reese was named an Associated Press First Team All-American in her freshman season at LSU.

The core of this Maryland team set offensive records for the program and was the nation’s highest-scoring team in 2020-21. The Terps entered 2021-22 as national title contenders before losing their second straight season in the Sweet 16 and experiencing the mass exodus.

Those departures left Maryland in 17th place earlier this season and voted fourth in the Big Ten.

“I had no idea at the start of the season what we were going to be,” said Maryland guard Abby Meyers. “Nine new transfers, that was definitely just a team building process. It’s great to be a #2 seed. For us it is no surprise. We were underestimated, we were the underdog all year. But our record shows, our resume are on display, and we’re just excited to go out and start hooping.”

Meyers was the most notable transfer of the offseason as reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, and she earned second-team All-Big-Ten honors after averaging 14.5 points. Brinae Alexander left Vanderbilt as the top scorer to become the top scorer from the Maryland bench. Lavender Briggs led Florida in 2020-21 before taking on a key banking role for the Terps. Transfer Elisa Pinzan from South Florida started every game as a point guard. Sophomore Shyanne Sellers increased her point average from 7.7 to 13.8 points and was named the conference’s second All-Big Ten team and All-Defense team. Even newcomer Bri McDaniel came on late and became a valued contributor off the bench.

All of these players had strong resumes, but no one knew how well they would fit into a new system and how quickly they would come together.

The Terps enter the tournament ranked 7th in the AP poll, the second-biggest improvement on the season for the program since Brenda Frese took over. The biggest? Maryland started the 2005–06 season in 14th place and went on to win the national championship.

The Terps (25-6) open the NCAA tournament Friday afternoon at College Park with a first-round game against the 15th-seeded Holy Cross (24-8) in the Greenville (NC) area 1. A win means the winner of No. 7 Arizona and No. 10 West Virginia in a second-round game on Sunday.

“The team will go down as a very special group,” said Frese. “Last year, as we all know, was a tough year personally and professionally.

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“It’s definitely a team that only shows when you have the right characters and the right chemistry, and I’ll say on the part of our staff when we looked at a point with seven, eight players in the squad it was pretty disheartening Spring. You can ask my husband and my family. Just seeing the right parts come together and fit and then buying into a whole new system is pretty incredible.”

One of the biggest challenges was the schedule Frese put together with a different roster in mind. After a 2021 loss to Texas for Sweet 16, it felt like those record-breaking terps weren’t being properly tested ahead of the postseason. The Big Ten weren’t as strong as they are now, and the 2020-21 non-conference list contained only two ranked teams — No. 24 Missouri State and No. 14 Arkansas.

Compare that to this season’s schedule, which included No. 1 South Carolina, No. 17 Baylor, No. 7 Notre Dame, and No. 6 Connecticut. There are four other Big Ten teams in the top 18, including No. 2 Indiana and No. 3 Iowa, and Maryland has played each at least once. The Terrapins have seven wins against ranked opponents and four against top 10 teams. Ranking website ranks them seventh in terms of appointment strength, and the Massey Ratings gave them the #2 in appointment strength in the nation.

New employees and a tough schedule left Frese faced with the need to tweak some schematics. The Terps are known for their offensive firepower but became a more balanced roster in 2022-23. Defense became much more versatile as Frese employed a variety of zone and man-to-man looks. The full-court press became an enduring weapon, and Maryland enforced the fourth-biggest sales in the Big Ten. Perhaps the most impressive moment came in a 96-68 win over Iowa in February, which saw Caitlin Clark, all-American first-team player of the year and Big Ten player of the year, go for 5-on-13 shooting and the First-team All-Big Ten centerin Monika Czinano was restricted to four points.

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“All the different coverage that you’ve seen was such a great approach to guarding Iowa that they didn’t see it,” said Big Ten Network analyst Meghan McKeown.

Former coach and current analyst Carolyn Peck added, “Remember, Maryland used to be all gas, no brakes.”

As surprising as the regular season was, the NCAA tournament is the real benchmark. The Terps advanced to the Sweet 16 for the past two seasons. Now they want more — and make a statement from a group that has been together for less than a year. Maryland women’s basketball has a chance to do something special

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