Following their victory in the 2018 Ivy League Tournament, the women’s basketball team earned a chance to “go dancing” at the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The official bracket was released on Monday — the Tigers received a No. 12 seed in the Kansas City Region and will take on the No. 5 seed Maryland Terrapins on Friday in Raleigh, N.C. Let’s take a look at some of the major storylines heading into the game.
Sizing Up the Opponent
The Maryland Terrapins finished second in the Big Ten this season, amassing a conference record of 12–4 and an overall record of 25–7. They finished second in the Big Ten in both points per game and rebounds per game, and were fourth in the league in total defense per game. Maryland also finished second in the Big Ten Tournament, losing to No. 1 seeded Ohio State in the championship game. The loss caused Maryland to fall from a No. 4 seed, or possibly a No. 3 seed, to the No. 5 seed. This drop is crucial, because the Terrapins lost an opportunity to host for the first two rounds of the tournament (the top four seeds host the first two rounds in the women’s bracket). The Terrapins were 12–3 at home, and 10–3 away from College Park.
A Battle of Young Stars
While senior leadership paved the way for the Tigers in 2017 and 2018, this first round matchup will highlight a battle between the underclassmen of both teams. After losing a strong senior class last season, Maryland has relied on sophomores Kaila Charles and Blair Watson to carry them this season and provide much needed depth. On the Tiger side, look no further than the freshman duo of Carlie Littlefield and Abby Meyers who lit up Yale and Penn from beyond the arc in the Ivy League Tournament.
Containment from Deep
The Terrapins are among the best at shooting the long ball, ranked 10th in the nation in three point percentage. At the same time, however, they are one of the worst teams in the nation at defending the three. For Maryland, it will be senior Kristen Confroy — the 12th-best three point shooter in the entire nation — leading the way from deep. On Princeton’s side, look for Littlefield, Meyers and Kenya Holland to light it up from beyond the arc. The Tigers will need to continue their suffocating defensive gameplan if they want to contain the Terrapins’ deep attack.
A Presidential Approval
Former U.S. President Barack Obama released his annual women’s March Madness bracket earlier this week. In it, he gave Princeton and his niece, senior forward Leslie Robinson, some love by picking them as one of his first round upsets.
Leslie vs. Jones
A key matchup to watch down low will pit Robinson against Maryland’s forward Stephanie Jones. During a conversation with the ‘Prince,’ Maryland student Harrison Cann, noted, “The player Maryland will be focused on will likely be Leslie Robinson. Her versatility could cause problems for the Terps down low, with her ability to score and rebound. She'll be a nice matchup against Stephanie Jones, who plays a very similar role for the Terps.” Cann is also a writer for Maryland’s student newspaper The Diamondback.
Something to Prove?
The Tigers are looking to avenge the 2015 Princeton squad in this rematch against Maryland. In their previous NCAA Tournament meeting, the No. 1 seed Terrapins got the best of the No. 8 seed Tigers and handed the Orange and Black their first and last lost of the season. On the flipside, Maryland has not made it past the Sweet 16 the past two seasons, and will be looking to overcome those disappointments and make a deep tournament run.
Keys to the Game
According to a , Princeton will win if “they play with as much versatility as they showed against Penn. With Leslie Robinson dominating the high post, Abby Meyers nailing threes and Bella Alarie being aggressive and commanding the paint, the Tigers are a tough team to stop. If all three are playing at their best, the defense will be too much to overcome, even for a 5 seed like Maryland.”
If Maryland wins, according to Cann, “it will be because of the efforts of Ieshia Small, who was able to provide solid scoring off the bench. The senior guard was named the Big Ten Sixth [Player] of the Year and can provide a nice spark if the starters are struggling.”
When: Friday, 12:30 p.m.
Television: ESPN2, WatchESPN App and the Ivy League Digital Network
Radio: Fox Sports 920
Site: Raleigh, N.C.