RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Maryland will begin the NCAA Tournament on the road for the first time since 2007. At least the Terrapins were sent to the familiar territory of Atlantic Coast Conference country.
Fifth-seeded Maryland plays 12th-seeded Princeton before fourth-seeded and site host North Carolina State takes on 13th-seeded Elon on Friday in the first round of the Kansas City Region.
The Terrapins (25-7), who finished 16th in the final AP Top 25, had grown understandably comfortable at the Xfinity Center in College Park, going 17-3 in NCAA Tournament games in that building while playing at least two tournament games there in each of the last seven years.
But a three-game losing streak in February, and a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game , helped knock Maryland out of a top-four seed and prevented them from earning the right to spend the first weekend at home.
“We sort of knew we were on the bubble of the 4-5 seeds, just based on the buzz around the tournament,” guard Kristen Confroy said Thursday. “For us, either way, it was a win. Obviously, for us seniors, we were hoping to have another chance to play at Xfinity, but at the end of the day, it’s another experience, and we get to go on the road and hopefully get a win.”
Instead, they’ll play at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum, which has undergone a $35 million renovation since Maryland’s last visit in 2014 before moving to the Big Ten.
The Wolfpack (24-8), ranked 21st by the AP, earned a top-four seed and the home tournament games that accompany it for the first time since the tournament went to merit-based site locations in 2015.
N.C. State, which has won five of seven with both losses coming to top-10 teams Notre Dame and Louisville, last hosted in 2007 — when late coach Kay Yow led the Wolfpack to an inspirational run to the Sweet 16 while she fought cancer. N.C. State has not lost a home tournament game since 1983.
“I’m just really proud of the way they’ve made something special out of our season,” said coach Wes Moore, an assistant to Yow in the mid-1990s.
KEY STAT: All four teams rank in the top 30 nationally in rebounding margin, with N.C. State (plus-10.1) leading the way at No. 6. Elon (plus-7.9) is at 23rd, Maryland (plus-7.8) is two spots behind the Phoenix and Princeton (plus-7.5) checks in at No. 30.
FAMILY TIES: Playing in the North Carolina Triangle is meaningful for Princeton’s Bella Alarie, the Ivy League player of the year. Her father Mark starred at Duke more than three decades ago as one of the first key recruits for then-unknown coach Mike Krzyzewski. Bella called this area “really special to my family” and expressed pride to “live in the history that my dad helped create.”
ANOTHER ACC CONNECTION: Elon coach Charlotte Smith has the Phoenix in the tournament for the second straight year and the second time in program history. Smith won a national championship as a player at North Carolina in 1994, hitting the winning shot in the title game.
REMATCHES: Elon (25-7) is making its second trip to Raleigh this season. N.C. State beat the Phoenix 70-57 on Dec. 16 behind 15 points and 11 rebounds from Chelsea Nelson. There’s a bit of familiarity in the other matchup, too — Maryland beat Princeton 85-70 in a second-round matchup three years ago. Elon and Maryland would have been paired in the second round last year, had the Phoenix not lost their opener.