Terps beef up roster

By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
Published February 23, 2008

As good as Maryland has been, with eight wins against teams in the RPI top 25, the Terrapins might be even tougher when coach Brenda Frese returns to the Maryland bench.

One of the better story lines of the college basketball season has been Frese, 37, coaching while pregnant with twins, and Sunday, her team got a huge road win at Duke just nine hours after Frese gave birth to twin boys, Markus and Tyler.

Frese hasn't traveled for road games since December and has been understandably limited in practice. Her due date was March 11, but she had expected an earlier delivery, saying previously that she'd like to return in time for the ACC tournament on March 6. Her players, jubilant for their coach's good news, said they hope she can return for Sunday's final home game against Florida State. The school hasn't set a timetable for her return.

The Terps - whose only losses this season are to Rutgers and North Carolina - don't play again until March 2 at N.C. State, so Frese should have time to get back to her old self in time for the ACC tournament, where Maryland gets another shot at UNC, plus a chance to get its third win against strong Duke and Virginia teams.

Step right in

Our Right Place, Right Time award goes to Maryland assistant Daron Park, 36, who has stepped in as interim coach during Frese's absence. It's a big leap for an assistant who had only three years' NCAA experience, having worked at Utah before joining Frese's staff.

Park, a 1994 Montana State graduate who coached five seasons at Westminster College, an NAIA school in Utah, could be the next Maryland assistant to get a job of his own. He replaced Jeff Walz, who was plucked from the Terps last spring to become coach at Louisville, which is 18-7 and headed back to the NCAA Tournament.

Walz could meet up with Frese in March, as ESPN.com's latest projections have Louisville as a No. 7 seed in College Park, setting up a second-round showdown with Maryland.

Win and you're in

The easy way for Florida and Florida State, with matching 16-10 records, to lock up an NCAA Tournament berth? Pull off huge road upsets next week. Florida State is at Maryland on Sunday, and Florida is at Tennessee on Thursday.

Barring wins there, both state schools are likely stuck on the NCAA bubble, with neither having a true quality win to upgrade a .500 or so record in a tough league. Unless Florida State loses remaining home games to Miami or Clemson, the Seminoles should make the cut, even though their only win against an RPI top-50 team is against ... Florida.

Florida, despite an RPI of 36 according to CollegeRPI.com, is in worse shape, with a 5-6 record in the SEC that will make it tough to finish above .500. The Gators' only top-50 wins barely qualify, having beaten No. 46 Temple and No. 50 TCU.

Both teams could enter their league tournaments needing a win or two to help themselves, knowing an early exit there could leave the state banking on Jacksonville to be the NCAA representatives for the host state of the Final Four.

Numbers game

How tough is Rutgers' schedule? When USF's Shantia Grace had 30 points in a 71-50 loss to the Scarlet Knights, it was the most scored against Rutgers this season. Check out the Who's Who list of the top 10 games against Rutgers, at least half-filled by first- or second-team All-Americans:

1. Shantia Grace, USF 30

2. Candace Parker, Tennessee 27

3. Renee Montgomery, UConn 24

4. Angel McCoughtry, Louisville 20

4. Meagan Cowher, Princeton 20

6. Candice Wiggins, Stanford 19

7. Marissa Coleman, Maryland 17

8. Jadis Rhodin, Seton Hall 17

9. Tina Charles, UConn 16

9. Quianna Chaney, LSU 16

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com or 813 226-3346.